Keynoting the U.S. Water Partnership’s Water Data Integration meeting on June 19, 2013, Department of Interior Assistant Secretary for Water and Science Anne Castle told the crowd of about 80 gathered at the U.S. Geological Survey’s Reston, Virginia, headquarters that federal agencies have identified the data gaps in water information and were working to close them. NGWA CEO Kevin McCray, CAE, represented the Association at the meeting.
The U.S. Water Partnership, of which NGWA is a member, is a U.S.-based public/private partnership established to unite American expertise, knowledge, and resources, and to mobilize its collective assets to address water challenges around the globe, especially where needs are the greatest. As part of its mission, the partnership is exploring the need to develop a water Web portal to help address developing nations' needs for water information, knowledge, and resources. Stating data must be publicly available, Castle cited how more than 30 million pages of U.S. water data has been used by the public and private sectors.
In her remarks, Castle praised the good works of the federal Advisory Committee on Water Information and specifically mentioned the National Ground Water Monitoring Network and how it provides state, national, and Canadian data to its users. While pilot studies have been done in a few states to test the concepts of a national monitoring network, a true network, as proposed by the ACWI Subcommittee on Ground Water, has yet to be fully funded, or even funded to begin small initial implementation steps as proposed in recent federal budgets.
Castle calls the U.S. “water data rich, but relatively immature in the integration of the data.” She suggested she believes climate change puts a premium on having accurate and plentiful water data.
Peter Colohan, senior policy analyst, White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, followed Castle. In his remarks he identified groundwater as a “particularly important challenge” and an area where perhaps the United States needs to make the greatest progress.
He said the nation has to measure both surface water and groundwater quality, as well as quantity, as this is essential for the drinking water regulatory process. A self-professed admirer of satellite technology, particularly the GRACE satellite, Colohan nevertheless said, “terrestrial networks are more critical than many satellite systems.” He continued that “in situ groundwater monitoring needs more work.” Colohan concluded by recognizing “there are major gaps in the world’s water data although we are drowning in terabytes of data.”
The formal remarks were followed by a summary of initial results of a survey among the partnership members with regard to the proposed portal, as well as a panel discussion of water data integration opportunities. The panel included Dr. David Arctur with GEOSS Water Services, Albert Cho of Xylem Inc., Dr. Martha Maiden with NASA, and Dr. Betsy Otto of the World Resources Institute.
A series of “lightning” case studies were presented by representatives of the Army Corps of Engineers, NASA, US AID, USGS, Veolia, Bureau of Reclamation, ESRI, World Wildlife Fund, NOAA, Global Institute of Sustainability, and U.S. EPA.
The day concluded with reports from three work sessions, one on the possible structure and functionality of the proposed site, another on the types of data and integration approaches, and a third on integration case studies.
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