Stu Hamilton in the field.

The Best Job! From Field Hydrography to Software for Hydrographers

Stu Hamilton – Level survey on the Spatsizi River (ca. 1990). The Spatsizi in the upper Stikine, regarded as BC’s Serengeti, is a favorite place I got to know well by helicopter, jet boat, and fixed wing aircraft on both floats and skis.

When I was a field hydrographer I could honestly claim to have the best job in the world. I would not have traded jobs with anyone. Field work always provided interesting problems to solve with lots of opportunity to be creative in finding solutions. I was able to become familiar with some of the most remote and beautiful places on the planet. The compensation I received for my work was greatly augmented by my profound belief that I was making the world a better place one discharge measurement at a time.

Stream hydrography is public service.

A study in British Columbia calculated a nineteen fold return on investment for every dollar spent on hydrometric monitoring. Data about water is so essential that I wonder if this isn’t an under-estimate. How can you even estimate the number of decisions that will be informed by that data when properly managed data will still be informing decisions generations from now?

If you want answers – follow the evidence.

Evidence is built on data, ergo with no data there are no answers to the many and various questions that can be asked about water quality and quantity. There are few examples that I am aware of adverse consequences from water resource decisions that were supported by good evidence and far too many examples of qusocial, economic and environmental disasters resultant from decisions based on ignorance.

Circumstances change and I no longer do field work and I no longer work for the public service. My work with Aquatic Informatics suits my life style choices better than field work could. I still have many interesting problems to solve, I get to travel to new places and I still have a strong public service ethic.

I may work in the private sector but now, rather than making the world a better place one discharge measurement at a time, I believe I am in a better position to enable others to create the data needed for a better world. I was attracted to Aquatic Informatics because better software means that hydrographers can improve the quality of their data and be much more efficient in how they do their jobs.

Governments worldwide have to prioritize spending against demands for hospitals, education, roads and other high profile needs. Nobody is marching in the streets demanding more gauging stations. The best hope of increasing the quality and quantity of data globally is to improve efficiency within existing resource envelopes. Good software increases the productivity of hydrographers creating an opportunity to re-invest in either higher quality (i.e. more gaugings per location) or more quantity (i.e. more stations per hydrographer).

One of the things I really enjoy about software development is the process of meeting with some of the best hydrographers and engineers from many different agencies and working with them for product development. This ‘stone soup’ approach makes for a collective benefit which is much more advanced than would be possible if these experts worked in isolation.

I have tried to capture some of the things that I have learned from this process in my latest white paper ‘The Best Water Data Possible – 5 Key Requirements for Modern Systems’.

Whitepaper: Best Water Data Possible! 5 Key Requirements for Modern Systems

The best possible data quality, timeliness, and affordability can only be realized with a modern hydrological data management system that meets 5 key requirements. Benchmark your system.

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