Sharing Private Water Data for the Public Good

Water Monitoring is a Public Service. We are borrowing pristine water from the environment to serve our economy.

We repay the environment with too little, in the wrong place, at the wrong time, and with degraded quality. How much water we can borrow? What are the terms of reference for repayment in order to maintain our credit into the future? The answers are yet to be determined. The environment has the upper hand. It controls quantity, timing, and distribution of supply but does not share this information freely. We can either blunder our way into the future by trial and error or we can learn what these constraints are that will define success in the 21st Century.

My eBook “The Value of Water Monitoring” makes the point that because water is a common pool resource we must treat the acquisition of the data needed as an essential public service to be successful in a Century that is dominated by water issues. Much of the eBook is about the challenges faced by publicly funded water monitoring programs in obtaining sufficient resources to meet the water information challenges ahead.

Perhaps water professionals in the private sector reading this eBook will not recognize themselves in this narrative?

An unquantifiable, but very large, proportion of all water monitoring is done by private enterprise. They do not receive public funding, nor do they provide public benefit by making their data publicly available. I have posted previously about the Ownership gap created by this long tail of water monitoring and the need for Closing the gap. There is a wealth of data that is being acquired, used for an enterprise-specific purpose, and never re-used or made available for any other purpose.

Would private water monitoring agencies find value in this eBook?

I would hope so. The critical nature of hydrological information to the health, wealth, and security of all people makes the sharing of data an ethical imperative. I have posted previously on Shared Data and Dark Data and I would hope that all monitoring agencies regardless of their primary motive will find motivation to make their data searchable, discoverable and accessible for the greater good. Ethics and profits are not mutually exclusive. If there are problems with your data that you don’t want to share, or if there are problems with your processes that will be revealed by the data, then you may think that it is more profitable to suppress the data. I would argue that sharing data will keep you on the path to success and suppressing data inevitably leads down a path of cumulative decision errors.

I would particularly like to hear from water professionals from the private sector.

Do you make your water data accessible? If so, how is that working out for you? If not, why not? There are many times more water monitoring devices sold each year than there are discoverable datasets. Who is collecting all of this data? Why? And what are they doing with the data? If we could answer some of these questions we could add considerable value to our global data assets and thus avert some of the burden of providing public funding for water monitoring.  Please comment below.

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