OWF Initiatives

Open Water Foundation Initiatives are the high-level focus areas for the work we do. Common threads are water, open source software, improved data access and transparency, and education. We are seeking funding partners whose mission is connected to these initiatives in order to advance the goals of both organizations. Initiatives are grouped to illustrate OWF program areas.OWF-Initiatives-2015-01-16

Click here to read more detailed information on each of the initiatives or continue reading short summaries below.

Initiative 1 — Open Source Software Platform — Help the State of Colorado Move Water Resources Software to Open Source Software Licensing

The State of Colorado has invested in software tools to help understand complex water resource issues in Colorado, in particular Colorado’s Decision Support Systems (CDSS).  However, budget cycles, limited human resources, and the State not being in the software business has resulted in a sustainability gap for software tools.  The OWF is attempting to fill this gap with a nonprofit open source business model that will ensure that the State’s investment in tools has maximum impact for Colorado.  CDSS tools are a de facto standard sanctioned by the State of Colorado and can be leveraged and enhanced to support other OWF initiatives.   Read more about OWF progress on this initiative.

Initiative 2 — Open Source Software Platform — Provide Stewardship for Open Source Water Resources Software

Many organizations invest in software to study and manage water resources, ranging from complex Excel workbooks to custom software tools written in various languages.  Often these tools are developed by individuals for a specific purpose and there is no plan for maintenance.  In other cases, a useful tool may have been maintained for some time within an organization but the organization is no longer able to continue supporting the tool.  The OWF provides services to maintain, enhance, and integrate such tools into the overall platform of technologies offered by OWF.  The OWF will work with organizations to move tools to open source licensing to ensure accessibility.   Read more about OWF progress on this initiative.

Initiative 3 — Open Source Software Platform — Encourage the Use of Open Source Software Technologies in Water Resources

Analyzing water resources issues is complex and requires the use of extensive data and powerful software tools, including geographic information systems (GIS), models, and visualization tools.  The financial investment needed to purchase software and the time commitment to learn how to use software can be prohibitive for many organizations, in particular for small businesses and nonprofits.  The OWF seeks to leverage open source software for application to water resources.  In addition to our own offerings, we will utilize “best of class” open source tools to increase access and decrease cost, which will allow more organizations to analyze water resources problems, leading to a more nimble and educated community of problem-solvers.   Read more about OWF progress on this initiative.

Initiative 4 — Data Access & Transparency — Improve Water Resources Data Access and Transparency

Water resources data can be difficult to access and understand.  Federal, state, and local organizations provide varying levels of data access in a variety of formats.  Data users often are expected to understand data details based on limited explanation from data providers.  The OWF is attempting to synthesize data from multiple sources, while providing context so that data users can understand and apply data for their questions.  To do this, we will improve technologies to access and visualize data, and provide context for data within the larger system.  The OWF will collaborate to define and use open data standards to promote transparent data sharing.  The results of this initiative are leveraged in other initiatives.  Read more about OWF progress on this initiative.

Initiative 5 — Data Access & Transparency — Visualize Your River Basin

The OWF recognizes that understanding natural and human-impacted aspects of river systems is the key to understanding challenges and opportunities with those systems. For example, the Cache la Poudre River (the Poudre) in Northern Colorado is unique in its transition from high mountains to agricultural plains. Its history as a working river in addition to a portion being the only Wild and Scenic river in Colorado speaks to the complex challenges on the river. The OWF is applying technologies from various initiatives to develop a system-wide visualization of the Poudre and other river basins, including online maps and graphs of historical and real-time data. The technologies and approach will support ongoing discussions about competing interests for water in river basins, and serve as a platform for innovation.   Read more about OWF progress on this initiative.

Initiative 6 — Key Outcome Area — Sustainable Irrigated Agriculture

Irrigated agriculture has had a profound impact on river systems in the arid west.  Agricultural reservoirs dot the landscape and the peak flows of rivers have been smoothed out to ensure water supply for agriculture throughout the growing season.  Agriculture uses over 80% of water supplies and in addition to food and other commodities provides wetlands and open space, replenishes groundwater, and provides economic benefits to communities.  Dry-up of irrigated agriculture is the first source of supply for growing cities.  OWF seeks to provide innovative data products and analysis tools to illuminate the discussion around irrigated agriculture – how can we preserve the values of agriculture while serving other needs?  Read more about OWF progress on this initiative.

Initiative 7 — Key Outcome Area — Sustainable Natural River Systems

There is no doubt that one of the attractions of Colorado and other areas in the western USA is the beauty and bounty of natural river systems.  Natural ecosystems provide recreational opportunities and a diverse ecosystem.  However, due to pressures of increasing population, climate change, natural disasters, and other issues, environment often is often the first victim of water shortages.  OWF will leverage its capabilities to provide access to data and analysis tools in order to provide a system-wide representation of river systems at spatial and temporal scale necessary to monitor and enhance environmental values, and support the activities of organizations interested in conserving and enhancing natural river systems.  Read more about OWF progress on this initiative.

Initiative 8 — Key Outcome Area — Improve Information for Municipal Water Providers and Customers

Municipalities use less than 20% of the water in Colorado.  However, utilities are experiencing increasing demand as population increases and are seeking new supplies from agriculture, groundwater, and other sources.  At the same time that utilities ask their customers to conserve water they also ask for rate increases because much of the service cost is for fixed capital costs and commodities that are rising in price.  Although drought has gripped the State, some utilities have not needed to implement drought restrictions because supplies have been sufficient.  These complexities and others require transparent access to information so that water providers can make good decisions and the public understands why decisions are made.  The OWF is interested in helping municipal water providers and their customers gain a better understanding of water use through improved data analysis, visualization, and open data.  Read more about OWF progress on this initiative.

Initiative 9 — Key Outcome Area — Understand Industry Water Use and Impacts

Industry as an economic driver is directly impacted by water issues such as drought, disasters, cost, quality, and regulations.  Industries such as energy development and manufacturing often pay a premium for water and are active in understanding impacts of water issues on operations.  Industry also has an important role in sustainable practices and can lead by example.  The OWF is interested in helping industries understand their water use and impacts resulting from such use, in order to help ensure wise use of water resources while encouraging economic benefits to society.  We also want to help provide transparency through open data standards and reporting so that industry can interface with government and public.  Read more about OWF progress on this initiative.

Initiative 10 — Education & Organizational Support — Developing Onboarding Information Packages

Many water organizations are challenged in that the complexity of water issues makes it difficult for new board members, city council, staff, and the public to understand an organization’s relationship with its water resources.  The OWF seeks to implement information packages and websites that educate an organization’s people about water issues.  Examples of organizations that can benefit include municipalities, ditch companies, water boards, utilities, conservation organizations, etc.  Onboarding materials will utilize OWF’s open technologies and can be leveraged for multiple organizations and be updated over time.   Read more about OWF progress on this initiative.

Initiative 11 — Education & Organizational Support — Incubating Social Entrepreneurs

The previous initiatives emphasize the unique mission and capabilities of the OWF, which focuses on technologies, data, and analysis.  However, technologies have little meaning without application to important social issues.  Additionally, the OWF recognizes the great challenges and opportunities for today’s youth, who are searching for purpose and impact.  Consequently, the OWF actively seeks out opportunities to engage students at every level to develop and apply data and analysis tools in order to tell the story of important water issues and make progress towards their solutions.  We want to incubate social entrepreneurs that will have great impact in solving problems in water resources and areas that touch water.   Read more about OWF progress on this initiative.

Initiative 12 — Education & Organizational Support — Shepherd Social Enterprise Water Nonprofits

There is a role for nonprofit social enterprises in addressing important water issues.  Social enterprises apply commercial strategies to maximize human and environmental well-being.  OWF’s social enterprise start-up experience has pointed out a need to help other nonprofit organizations that are in the early stages of start-up or need support as they scale.  We feel an obligation to help these organizations gain footing so that they can focus on their missions and have positive impact.  Read more about OWF progress on this initiative.

Initiative 13 — Education & Organizational Support — STEM Education

Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) education is receiving extensive attention and investment to address the need for a qualified technical workforce in the United States. The OWF recognizes the need to encourage STEM education and in particular the need for STEM professionals that understand the complexities of water resources, which often require multi-faceted teams to solve complex programs. The OWF supports STEM by making it easier for educators and students to use data, information, and software tools in their programs, which develops students as critical thinkers able to understand system interactions and processes. We also recognize the need to encourage and support girls to pursue STEM opportunities in their higher education and careers.   Read more about OWF progress on this initiative.


Click here to read more detailed information on each of the initiatives