Who we are
THE WATER CHALLENGE
Meeting 21st Century Challenges with 21st Century Solutions
Much of the infrastructure built decades ago to address the most challenging water management problems, including our data infrastructure, is struggling to meet today’s water management challenges. Much of our water data exists in paper formats unique to the organization collecting the data. Often, these organizations existed long before the personal computer was created (1975) or the internet became mainstream (mid-1990s). As organizations adopted data infrastructure in the late 1990s, it was with the mindset of “normal infrastructure” at the time. It was built to last for decades, rather than adapt with rapid technological changes.
New water data infrastructure with new technologies that enable data to flow seamlessly between users and generate information for real-time management are needed to meet our growing water challenges. The water community needs to be responsive and continually improve how they manage this complex resource by using data and communicating information to support decision-making. In short, a sustained effort is required to accelerate the development of open data and information systems to support sustainable water resources management.
Figure: This timeline offers major developments related to water infrastructure and regulations, technological advancements, and water-related events.
WHY AN INTERNET OF WATER?
Communities Call for Modern Water Management
If data are hard to discover or share across platforms, they will not be used to drive decisions, which creates uncertainty and costly inefficiencies as water resources become more scarce.
Now imagine a world where you can easily look up groundwater levels as you house-hunt, or quickly check the water quality at your child’s school, or open an app to check if a river or lake is safe for swimming. Imagine improved forecast accuracy for timely warnings about harmful algal blooms, droughts, or floods. Imagine precisely managing water, reducing uncertainty, and streamlining infrastructure needs to avoid redundancy and maximize efficiency. Imagine making regulations more precise for protecting the environment and human health.
This Internet of Water strives to realize such a world.
WHAT IS THE INTERNET OF WATER?
A Vision. An Organization. A Network.
The Internet of Water is a project, a network, and a movement designed to mobilize cultural and behavioral change across individuals, agencies, and organizations to improve water management outcomes.
The components of the IoW already exist (producers, hubs, and users), but the work of sharing and integrating data between them is not a primary mission for any of them. The mission of the IoW is to build a dynamic and voluntary network of communities and institutions to facilitate the opening, sharing, and integration of water data and information.
The IoW is focused on facilitating and strengthening the connections between these entities to ensure sufficient, usable water data is available at our fingertips.
The Internet of Water includes:
- Data producers – entities that collect data for a specific purpose and have authority over what and how data are being produced, including organizations managing citizen science and crowd-sourced data (e.g., a wastewater treatment plant producing data about surface water conditions, a state agency holding water rights data, an NGO collecting water data samples, a private company taking meter readings).
- Data hubs – formalized, structured source of open water data managed by data curators that standardize data submitted to the hub. Hubs may produce or provide access to data from producers. (e.g., U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Water Quality Exchange and Portal, which references all available water quality data; the Water Data Exchange of the Western States Water Council, which shares water rights and use data for all Western states).
- Data users – entities that use water data to create information and value. Primary users are the producers who use the data they collect to meet a specific mission (e.g., a state environmental quality agency that regulates wastewater treatment plants, a reservoir operator regulating the flow of water through a dam). Secondary users create value by combining multiple types of data from multiple organizations (e.g., a conservation organization building stream restoration maps from data held by a utility, state, and reservoir operator; a private company assessing, modeling, and visualizing the environmental impacts of real estate development).
- Decision-makers – leverage information and insights generated by water data users and producers to inform policy and water management.
- The IoW Network – The water data community and the water stakeholders it serves.
Figure: Conceptual diagram of the IoW Network
Photo Credits: Zdenek Machacek @ Unsplash; Berfect Creative Agency