Historically unprecedented drought in California has brought water issues to the forefront of the nation’s attention. Crucial investigations that concern water policy, management, and research, in turn, require extensive information about the quality and quantity of California’s water. Unfortunately, key sources of pertinent data are unevenly distributed and frequently hard to find. Thankfully, the vital importance of integrating water data across federal, state, and tribal, academic, and private entities, has recently been recognized and addressed through federal initiatives such as the Climate Data Initiative of President Obama’s Climate Action Plan and the Advisory Committee on Water Information’sOpen Water Data Initiative. Here, we demonstrate an application of integrated open water data, visualized and made available online using open source software, for the purpose of exploring the impact of the current California drought. Our collaborative approach and technical tools enabled a rapid, distributed development process. Many positive outcomes have resulted: the application received recognition within and outside of the Federal Government, inspired others to visualize open water data, spurred new collaborations for our group, and strengthened the collaborative relationships within the team of developers. In this article, we describe the technical tools and collaborative process that enabled the success of the application.