CARI is a Geographic Information System (GIS) dataset of surface waters and their riparian areas consisting of polygon and line features with data-rich attributes that can be used for developing broad- or fine-scale landscape summaries of aquatic features. CARI is a seamless statewide map compiled from multiple data sources and standardized to a common classification system. This statewide dataset provides the best available map of state surface waters and serves as the base map in EcoAtlas to coordinate monitoring and assessment at the landscape scale across federal, state, and local agencies, while providing enough detail to inform local land use planning. Accompanying CARI is the CARI Editor, an interactive, online GIS mapping interface that facilitates user-generated updates to information associated with the CARI dataset. When users encounter any discrepancy between CARI details and actual landscape conditions, they can suggest changes that can be reviewed and incorporated into the authoritative CARI data, thereby maintaining CARI’s currency and ready applicability to decision making.

This statewide dataset is hosted online through EcoAtlas, an online toolset that supports the State’s three level monitoring and assessment framework described in the Tenets of a State Wetland and Riparian Area Monitoring Plan (WRAMP), which in-turn advances the State’s Wetland and Riparian Area Protection Policy (WRAPP).  The WRAMP framework employs the Federal Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA’s) recommended three level monitoring and assessment framework for wetlands of which the first level includes landscape level assessments and profiles.  CARI is the statewide base-map for those assessments.

Additional Background

EcoAtlas tools are being developed to support data management and information dissemination for aquatic resources statewide.  CARI was initiated in 2009 by the California Wetland Monitoring Workgroup (CWMW) with the goal of achieving an updateable, standardized map that could be used by environmental managers, planners and the public to assess the diversity and abundance of wetlands across the State. EcoAtlas employs the CARI base-map to visualize the location of wetland projects (with links to detailed project information), monitoring assessments (based on the California Rapid Assessment Method [CRAM]), and summarize the diversity and extent of wetlands via a Landscape Profile tool.

Pre-CARI mapping efforts for California contained varying levels of detail, vintages, coverage, and classifications, which made comparisons of wetland diversity and extents across the state challenging. To improve wetland and riparian map data across the state, CARI has the following goals: 

  • Develop detailed and standard mapping methodology that can be applied (and adapted) to all regions across the state. This includes developing region specific methods for specific wetland types as warranted.
  • Maintain a standardized classification system that can be applied (cross-walked) to different datasets in order to incorporate them into the statewide CARI base-map. This allows ongoing updates to the CARI base-map when new GIS datasets are identified that improve the accuracy and detail of the current CARI map.
  • Be supported by a statewide technical advisory team of GIS and aquatic resource experts so that the mapping standards and classification system can expand and adapt to support  the scientific monitoring and assessment goals of the WRAPP and associated tools


Current Version

The current version of CARI is available on SFEI's Data Center and is a compilation of local, regional, and statewide aquatic resource GIS datasets into a seamless, statewide coverage of aquatic resources that employs a common wetland classification system.  Although the dataset varies in detail, and represents different time periods for different areas across the state, CARI is the only statewide aquatic resource dataset that has been compiled and standardized to a common classification system, which can be used to develop landscape level profiles of aquatic resources at a local, regional, or broader scale (as seen with the Landscape Profile tool).

The CARI dataset includes:

  • the National Wetland Inventory (NWI, last updated in 2010) of the US Fish and Wildlife Service,
  • the National Hydrography Dataset (NHD, high resolution dataset at 1:2400 scale, last updated in 1999) of the US Geological Survey,
  • Aquatic Resource mapping from regional datasets developed by SFEI’s GIS team using CARI’s standardized, and more detailed, mapping protocols and used to demonstrate the WRAMP framework. Links to more information about these mapping efforts are listed below under "Subprojects" (below). 
    • San Francisco Bay Area Aquatic Resources Inventory (BAARI) – 2011
    • Laguna de Santa Rosa Plain (near Santa Rosa ,CA. NCARI) – 2013
    • Lake Tahoe Basin (TARI) - 2016
    • Delta Aquatic Resource Inventory (DARI) - 2021
    • San Diego Aquatic Resource Inventory (SDARI) - 2024
    • Baylands Habitat Map 2020 (BHM2020) - 2024
  • And a wide range of other California datasets. For a full list please see the metadata associated with the current version of CARI posted on the Data Center.

You can now download the most recent version of CARI on the SFEI Data Center as well as access it through the following webservices (CARI polygons, CARI lines)

For more information contact [email protected]
2008 to 2024
Programs and Focus Areas: 
Environmental Informatics Program
Geographic Information Systems
Resilient Landscapes Program
Wetland Monitoring & Assessment
Location Information
General Project Location(s):