The collection of hydrometeorological data is becoming privatized, and competition within the industrial sector (utilities, weather forecasting, etc.) is intensifying. Disruption in collection and distribution of these data will adversely affect both the science community and general public. The problem extends beyond California and the United States: governments worldwide are outsourcing data collection activities, and contractors recognize that restricting free access to hydrometeorological data increases profit margins.
The issue that must be raised, however, is whether restricting free public and governmental access to these data reduces water resources management efficiency as well as the accuracy and timeliness of flood forecasting, and delays the delivery of information to the public. Therefore, we propose a strategy that provides select users with real-time information for the benefit of the public, while protecting competitive interests within the private sector.