“Water, water everywhere, nor any drop to drink,” intoned the fictional Ancient Mariner as he looked hopelessly over an empty ocean.
More water data wouldn’t have helped in his case. In many cases, it does.
Today, as usable water is becoming a matter of increasing concern, the knowledge of water — knowledge based on data that is relevant, timely, and closely integrated — is more and more crucial for American communities, farms, and industries. The same basic data can serve to help us use our water resources more wisely, protect the natural environment, and respond to disasters.
In many places, America’s water resources are being stressed by increasing demand for water, decreasing water supplies, and reduced water quality. Large areas of the country are vulnerable to both droughts and floods. These stresses can be heightened by changes in land use, population growth, and climate change. Despite the substantial investments made by federal, state, and local governments and by regional water authorities, the nation does not have a comprehensive, integrated perspective of our varied water resources.
“Access to water data across states and agencies is difficult because it is collected by hundreds of organizations with no common infrastructure,” explained Alan Rea, a USGS hydrologist and data specialist.
Improving access to data and enabling open exchange of water information are vital actions required to identify existing water resources issues and develop sustainable future solutions, particularly in the face of climate change and extraordinary drought. To address this challenge, the Open Water Data Initiative is aimed at integrating fragmented water information that is already being collected by different agencies at several levels of government into a connected, national water data framework.
Caring and sharing
The concept of widely shared water information started a few years ago when the USGS, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, and NOAA’s National Weather Service began a formal collaboration called Integrated Water Resources Science and Services to cultivate new approaches for improving their respective water missions.
Thinking farther afield and recognizing that effective water resource management in sectors ranging from energy and manufacturing to agriculture and drinking water works best with open access to water data and information, these groups, in concert with the Federal Geographic Data Committee and the Advisory Committee on Water Information, have agreed to collaborate in the Open Water Data Initiative (OWDI).
The multi-year OWDI pilot will build upon existing geospatial and observational data and tools to explore the feasibility and demonstrate the utility of integrated water data. The OWDI supports current trends in applications of big data while advancing the White House Open Data Policy (data.gov) by using recognized standards and web service technologies to spur innovation.
“We have to have a modern, consistent way to communicate water information and data,” said Jerad Bales, USGS Chief Scientist for Water. “What we are trying to do with the Open Water Data Initiative is to make the process of sharing water data easier and automated.”
Signs of success
One early, eye-catching example of OWDI success is the USGS interactive California Drought Visualization website, released in December 2014. This visualization tool is designed to provide the public with atlas-like, statewide coverage of the drought and a timeline of its impacts on water resources. In partnership with the Bureau of Reclamation, options are being explored to expand the visualization to describe conditions across the lower Colorado River region.
The application accesses data from a variety of sources to create a useful “toolbox” for key stakeholders to use when making tough choices about water use, presenting them with valuable water data arranged in a storyline that conveys the complexity of Western water management in a more understandable and interactive format.
Two additional OWDI examples that are transitioning from concept to action are the National Flood Interoperability Experiment and a water quality incident response tool to address situations such as the 2014 Elk River chemical spill near Charleston, West Virginia.
While these examples illustrate how the data can be applied, the focus of the OWDI is not so much on specific applications but on the data behind them. The goal of the initiative is to make all water data from a wide variety of sources discoverable and readily accessible via web interfaces.
The anticipated outcome of the improved availability of real-time data is the distributed development of more complex automated data processing — for instance, models that automatically ingest updated data streams to produce modeled results in real time. A public “marketplace” is also envisioned where innovators inside and outside government can feature open source tools that are based on data liberated through the initiative.
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Real-time map showing the extent of flooding (black dots) and drought (red dots) in the U.S. Read more
USGS scientists, engineers, and technicians are working along the Gulf coast in response to Hurricane Isaac. Read more
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Please comment on the USGS’ draft science strategies! Read more
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USGS Details how climate change could affect water availability in 14 U.S. Basins. Read more
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5 Scientific Words from Languages Around the World!
Think our bad jokes for EarthWords are drying up? Think again...
This week's EarthWord sounds like what the British might call an outhouse.
This week's EarthWord sounds somewhat like velocity, but the higher this is, the slower it moves!
This EarthWord shows where water goes after it goes to ground.
When people think of the dangers of a hurricane, they tend to think of the winds. But this EarthWord can be just as destructive!
This one’s for the dogs--Tarantino’s dogs, anyway.
EarthWords is an on-going series in which we shed some light on the complicated, often difficult-to-pronounce language of science. Think of us as your terminology tour-guides, and meet us back here every week for a new word! The EarthWord: Juvenile Water Definition: Juvenile water is “new” water that is in, or derived from, materials deepContinue Reading
Feeling breathless? This week's EarthWord might be why...Read More
What do plant sweat and steam have in common? Check out this week's EarthWord! Read More
February 28th at 7 p.m. (PST) — Public Lecture information: http://online.wr.usgs.gov/calendar
In response to Hurricane Isaac, USGS has deployed several hundred storm surge sensors to collect information about the effects of Isaac on the Gulf Coast.
7 p.m.—Public lecture (also live-streamed over the Internet)
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Join us in Menlo Park for our Evening Lecture on Scanning the Seafloor with Sound!
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On Nov. 3, USGS scientists Patrick Barnard and William Ellsworth will present a public lecture in Menlo Park, CA, providing Bay Area residents information about USGS research in the San Francisco Bay Area, including recent discoveries beneath San Francisco Bay and ongoing studies to better understand earthquake probabilities and the potential hazards associated with strong ground shaking.
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Meet the R/V Muskie and the R/V Kaho, the USGS Great Lakes Science Center's two newest additions to its Great Lakes research fleet!
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