The Nature ConservancySAN FRANCISCO, Calif. /California Newswire/ — Today, The Nature Conservancy of California announced that their one-stop website on the sources and protection levels of drinking water across the state now provides such information for an estimated 26.5 million Californians residing in more than 500 cities and towns.

Drinking water source information and interactive maps for the state’s most populous cities and metropolitan areas are accessible at the Conservancy’s new California website, Among the most recently added cities are Bakersfield and Fremont, California’s 9th and 16th most populous cities respectively.

The interactive features at the site enable millions of Californians for the first time at one site to track the path of their water from source to tap. Visitors to the site simply type in their city and are then able to click through screens that feature photos, data and interactive maps on where their water originates. Site visitors can also take a “Think You’re an Expert?” quiz to test their water knowledge.

The site is a growing resource with additional cities and towns being added regularly, expanding the data base and the number of watershed maps to reach even greater numbers of Californians.

“The study is the first to aggregate California’s drinking water information at such a large-scale, and in an interactive and user-friendly way,” said Kirk Klausmeyer, a San Francisco-based Nature Conservancy scientist and co-author of the study. “The maps enable residents across the state to understand the status of their local water sources, a key first step in taking action to protect these vital resources.”

Although clean, healthy water is widely acknowledged as California’s “most precious resource,” integral to residents’ well-being as well as to the state economy, tracking down water source information has frequently been a burdensome process. Information on California’s drinking water sources was often separated into unique watersheds and managed by different entities, making it difficult for consumers to find clear and easily accessible information on where their water comes from.

The study found that only 16 percent of the watersheds that supply drinking water to Californians are fully protected from human threats. A little over half of the watersheds are under public management and have some level of protection. The remaining third is privately owned with variable levels of protections. Cities and towns around the state vary greatly in the level of protection found in their watersheds—from 27 to 89 percent.

Klausmeyer said that he hopes the study helps illuminate for California consumers not only how far their water travels from source to tap, but also how vital the state’s water supply is—and how vulnerable.

“Trees help keep sediment and pollution from flowing into our waters, and help to slow down rainwater, allowing more water to seep into underground water supplies,” he said. “Improved land management of Sierra forests, grasslands and river-adjacent ‘riparian’ habitat will enhance state water resources.”