At the end of March, The Commons was invited to speak on behalf of the Water Data Collaborative at the Georgia Water Resources Conference in Athens, GA. We presented on a panel concerning water data and databases, a topic that’s essential to our mission and why we take pride in our efforts with the Water Data Collaborative.
The Georgia Water Resources Conference is a regionally focused two-day meeting of water professionals focused on water quality, quantity, and conservation around the state of Georgia. Topics represented at the conference included talks surrounding water data, river access, wastewater mitigation, and water policy to name a few. The Commons sat on a panel concerning types of water data and how they are stored and managed in select databases at local, state, and federal levels. Fellow panelists included staff from Georgia’s Adopt-a-Stream program as well as their state water database, the Georgia Environmental Monitoring and Assessment System (GOMAS).
The panel was focused around the types of water data available and where they can be found. We had an excellent discussion surrounding incorporation of community data into public data repositories. We dove deep into the inner workings of community generated data and how it can be better incorporated into data warehouses that house state and federally collected data. Expanding use of community collected data has been an ongoing issue in water quality science and one with no clear and direct answer. A common reason for the omission of the data from this stakeholder sector is that, from the perspective of data aggregators, the value of data relies heavily on the known quality of that data. When the data aggregators cannot determine the quality of community collected data, they feel obligated to discard it. Therefore, finding solutions to ascertain and verify the quality and integrity of data is critical, so as to assuage concerns of the administrators of data repositories like the Water Quality Exchange (WQX) or GOMAS. They make it clear that they need to avoid mixing water data of different qualities as it could reduce their data collection’s overall efficacy in informing data users. Here were some great takeaways from this discussion when it came to water data quality assurance and control and where data from non-governmental programs can be stored:
- The water quality community needs to place a stronger emphasis on capacity building for community based water quality programs.
- Use of APIs of known quality and ensuring database connectivity are increasingly essential as the demand for both data sovereignty and open datasets grows.
- The implementation of base standards for community-based water quality programs is necessary in order to increase the utility of their data by allowing it to be incorporated into larger datasets.
Our team relishes the opportunities to connect with all stakeholders along the data pipeline to have these critical, and exciting conversations in person. We look forward to connecting with more leaders in this movement at the upcoming National Water Quality Monitoring Conference and looking for more opportunities to talk about the philosophies and processes for building better technical services to support data flow across stakeholder groups to amplify the number of end data uses.