At Aquatic Informatics, we are encouraged to take an active role in the community and so I was quick to agree when I was recently asked do a short course on hydrology for a conference on Global Stewardship at a local private school. It turned out to be a lot of fun, for me at least.
The United States Geological Survey (USGS) has replaced its custom, in-house developed, Automated Data Processing System (ADAPS) originally designed in 1985 with the commercial-off-the-shelf (COTS) AQUARIUS Time-Series software. The state of Alabama, of the USGS Lower Mississippi Water Science Center, has now officially retired the ADAPS system. This is the first in a scheduled deployment rollout of all 50 states. This is a big deal, not only for Aquatic Informatics and for the USGS, but for the world.
A different point of view changes nothing but it can change everything. Last week I wrote about how unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAV), also known as drones, could be used for Large Scale Particle image Velocimetry (LSPIV) to get surface velocity measurements, which when combined with surveyed cross-sections can produce extreme flow gaugings. That same drone, equipped with the same camera, can also provide the cross-sectional information needed to complete the job.
By 2050, a world population of 9 billion will require 60% more food. The security of our global food supply is highly reliant on adequate water supply. According to the United Nations, “agriculture is the biggest water user, with irrigation accounting for 70% of global water withdrawals.” While the global population is growing, water supply is not. So to meet 2050 food demands, it’s important we learn to better utilize limited water resources for optimal agricultural production. Today’s irrigation districts are being smarter about water use!
It is increasingly the case that when I am talking to people about what AQUARIUS software ‘should’ do, I find that there are multiple motivations for what ‘should’ means. There are many different ways that value can be perceived and product development depends on this perception. The concept of “shared value” is where companies can solve society’s problems and make profit at the same time.
Water monitoring is a place-based activity. The work is wherever the water is, which is all over the planet. A stream hydrographer can cover a very large geographic area so regional offices typically only concentrate a small number of hydrographers at any one location and there are many locations. Water monitoring agencies have limited resources available to develop specialized training material or to send hydrographers on specialized courses so the most prevalent mode of career development is on-the-job training.
If there is one theme that dominated water news in February it must be innovation. Starting with how Microsoft is taking water cooling to a whole new level to create fully scalable data centers under ocean waters. I don’t think we can believe that the waste heat in the receiving waters will be totally benign, but it is entirely possible that this is a less impactful solution than any of the other mass computing options. So what if computing and data storage get much, much, cheaper as a result of this technology?
One objective of the Hydrology Corner is to provide a forum where hydrometric problems can be discussed and clever solutions to those problems can be shared. The stream gaugers vs. beavers post is a good example of a discussion of a difficult problem. Not only have several people posted on the blog but the post also resulted in an email exchange with Jeff Watson from Horizons Regional Council who realized that New Zealand may have a solution to a North American problem.
Incremental change is an insidious thing. Like a frog in a pot of water on the stove it can be difficult to know what is going on when your attention is moment-to-moment. It could be that from day-to-day there is no noticeable change but year-to-year there is major change and decade-to-decade there is transformative change. The business of water monitoring is vastly different than when I was in the field.
We usually report water quantity information as a volumetric rate (e.g. m3/s); we usually report water quality information as a concentration (e.g. mg/l); and we usually report precipitation as a length (e.g. mm). But we don’t have to. The mass of water is related to its volume by its density which, conveniently, can be assumed to be unity (1). This means that we could just as easily report water information using the dimension of mass. Would reporting water information in a different dimension change the way that we understand water?
In my Hallowe’en post I presented various ways in which better rigor in tracking data provenance can do many things — up to and including — saving the world during a zombie apocalypse. Today, I would like to focus on a much more immediate and pragmatic benefit of improving traceability of data to source. Our…