Why the Internet of Water?
The Internet of Water (IoW) is about opening public water data, improving discoverability and usability, and demonstrating the value of water data to users. In many watersheds we are unable to answer basic questions about our water systems in a timely way:
- How much water is there?
- What is its quality?
- How is it being used?
This is like having a bank account without knowing how much money you are taking in, how much money is in your account, how much you are spending, or what you are spending it on. As long as you have plenty of money, that system works. But as resources become strained, it becomes increasingly important to manage your resources as efficiently as possible. This means you need to know how your money is flowing in and out of your account, what expenses are variable and non-essential, and where efficiencies can be made. The same holds true for a water budget. Climate change is increasing the variability in water supply while population growth and urbanization are increasing water demand. At the same time, the cost of using water fluctuates with water quality and regulations. In order to manage our water resources, we need data to create accurate and time relevant water budgets. This means the data must be discoverable (you can find it) and usable (it has standards and metadata).
Public agencies are often collecting data but the data may not be open or shared across platforms, limiting their ability to be integrated and put to additional use. Without a coordinating effort water data will remain fragmented, leading to high transaction costs as the time invested in discovering, cleaning, and standardizing the data leaves little time to put the data to work and gain insights. If data are hard to discover or share across platforms, they will not be used to drive decisions, leading to uncertainty and inefficiency. As water resources become more constrained, greater precision will be needed to sustainably manage our water resources.
There are many local, state, regional, and national level organizations that are working to improve their data infrastructure. The Internet of Water (IoW) will initially focus on three broad tasks:
- Discover the value of water data and communicate that value
- Open public (i.e., governmental) data by supporting public agency efforts
- Connect data hubs together to increase data discoverability and usability