I had the great pleasure of re-connecting with colleagues at the NASH symposia at the AWRA 2014 national conference. There were three well attended NASH sessions and a panel discussion that were all great starting points for conversations. One such conversation about discharge measurement uncertainty with Tim Cohn resulted in the statement that is the title of this post. We were discussing the reasons for study into the problem of quantification of discharge measurement uncertainty.
Every change in the expected pattern of variability of water supply and quality poses a threat to the security of the water, food and energy we are dependent on for quality of life. Up until the very recent past conversations about the role of water data tended to be about development of, and management of, our water resources in a way that served environmental sustainability. Water data give us the means to identify the right balance between human and in-stream requirements and the evidence to ensure that such balance is respected.
The opening plenary at the AWRA 2014 conference by Kathryn Sullivan explained the emerging role for Environmental Intelligence for handling the need to respond to the increasingly fickle nature of water availability and quality. Dr. Sullivan used several recent examples of unprecedented extreme events to make the point that the world’s attention is focused on the nexus of water security, food security and energy security.
In the modern world, it is rude and inconsiderate to indiscriminately consume resources for one time use. It is not socially acceptable to litter the landscape with trash. It may have taken years of public education for the message to take hold, but the outcome is less pressure on our environment and a higher quality…
When facing imminent flood dangers, time is of the essence. However, getting the right information to the right people in real-time can be challenging. No one knows this more than the City of Brisbane. Located on the east coast of Australia, Brisbane is a world-class city, enjoyed for its subtropical climate. However, that same climate contributes to various forms of flooding, including from storm surge, large tides, creeks, and the Brisbane River.
Those who work closely with data recognize the value of incremental investment in data quality; however, there is despair that this value can be quantized in terms that are meaningful to the bean-counters who control and allocate funding for monitoring programs. The discussion prompted by ‘Economics of Data Quality’ remind me of aspects of the novel ‘Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance’ by Robert Pirsig. The story is about many things but it is mostly about a search for quality.
Data about water quantity and water quality are fundamental to some of the most important decisions made by engineers and in choices made by societies. Abundance and quality of water are critical factors in many aspects of our economy, our environment, and our social and physical well-being. It is the case than multiple water resources objectives must be simultaneously managed. The costs of sub-optimal water resources choices can be substantial. Uncertainty is antagonistic to optimization.
Surrounded by hydrologists on a day-to-day basis, I most certainly talk about discharge and rating curves a lot. I find discussions about hydrometrics fascinating (actually I find any discussions about water and data management inspiring, but that is a whole other issue). But alas, I’m a self-professed “Water Quality Nerd” and a Water Quality Professional by trade.