OWF Initiative – Improve Water Resources Data Access & Transparency

“The three principles of transparency, participation, and collaboration form the cornerstone of open government.”

– Definition of open government from the 2009 Open Government Directive Memorandum, the White House

The OWF initiative to Improve Water Resources Data Access and Transparency has the goal of providing an accessible platform of data and information that can serve as a foundation to address complex water issues.  OWF seeks to increase the efficiency of organizations that make decisions about water by providing neutral and balanced context, data, and value-added products that integrate data from various sources.  We are do not advocate for issues, other than to invest in open data and technologies in order to understand water issues.  Below are ways that OWF is improving access to water resources data and increasing transparency on complex water issues.

Improving Access to Water Resources Data

The OWF develops open source software tools to access and analyze water data so that organizations can make better decisions about water resources.  We also support coalitions of organizations that are evaluating complex water issues, often with competing interests.  We often work on projects where there is a need to efficiently analyze large amounts of data in order to understand challenges and opportunities.  Because water touches nearly everything, water data and analysis seldom are simple and often involve complex inter-related systems.  The following are ways that OWF is improving access to water resources data:

  • Develop and support software tools that access and integrate data from various sources. For example, the TSTool software developed by OWF accesses data from many government web services, databases, and file formats.
  • Improve access to public data sources for streamflow, precipitation, snow, reservoirs, groundwater, diversions, and other data types. For example, OWF works with government agencies to implement and improve their web services and provide tools like TSTool.
  • Provide tools to automate visualization of water data.
  • Document sources, quality, and limitations, and interpretation of data. We provide documentation for data, tools, and processes so that others can duplicate and extend our work.
  • Work with data aggregators to efficiently process data from original sources. For example, the OWF is working with the Western States Water Council to implement the Water Data Exchange.

Our belief is that no one should be constrained from accessing basic data about the public water resource.  We believe that data about water resources should be easily accessible in order to encourage efficient and transparent analysis of water resource issues.  We help small and large organizations access data and integrate analysis with their organization’s business processes.

Encouraging Transparency on Complex Water Issues

The imbalance between water demand and supply is perhaps the fundamental threat to the world’s future.  Water scarcity impacts economies, society, and nature.  Water scarcity causes conflict and legal battles.  Limited access to clean drinking water poses threats to health and livelihood.  Climate change impacts have the potentially to disrupt societies in drastic ways.  In order to gain knowledge and support collaboration to address water issues, it is necessary to provide transparent access to data and information.  The OWF is working to increase transparency as follows:

  • Providing web resources that integrate water data and knowledge, leveraging research and government data sources.
  • Providing context and explanations to understand water issues – we want to help people understand how to use and interpret water data in relation to their perspectives.
  • Finding opportunities to provide critical data and information to inform collaborative groups (and also separate interests) in dialog about water issues.

The OWF has a long-term vision driven by our mission and initiatives to improve understanding of complex water issues.  We build on previous work to improve access to data, provide relevant context and information, and develop software tools.  Our work parallels and supports that of organizations that need water data and information to inform the work they do.