Web Portal Tracks Oklahoma's Water

The Oklahoma Water Survey was established to be a trusted source of water information and the Web portal should serve as a primary agent of that mission.

by Joy Hampton, McClatchy News Service / April 28, 2014

The Oklahoma Water Survey launched a Web portal on Friday that consolidates data for anyone who collects, uses or is interested in Oklahoma’s water quantity and quality.

“There’s a lot of information out there, and it’s nice to have this portion of it put into a single place so we can access it,” Norman Utilities Director Ken Komiske said.

Komiske was one of several professionals and members of the public attending an interactive workshop hosted by the Oklahoma Water Survey as part of the Web portal’s launch.

Located inside the Stephenson Research and Technology Center on OU’s South Research Campus, the Oklahoma Water Survey was established to be a trusted source of water information. The Web portal should serve as a primary agent of that mission.

“The workshop was a good introduction to the Web portal,” Komiske said. “It looked like a lot of thought went into putting it together. I thought it was really easy to use.”

The launch of the Web portal was phase one. Future phases will expand the online resource even further.

“It’s a wonderful tool,” said John Harrington, water resources director for the Association of Central Oklahoma Governments. “You can show people what the data is — not just tell them.”

Harrington said data that is visually graphed allows people to see the downward trend of water availability in the area — including the reduction of groundwater in an aquifer. That serves as a useful tool he can use in talking to people about the drought and how it has affected the state.

The new data portal is a “one stop shopping with a shopping cart,” said Oklahoma Water Survey Director Robert Puls who demonstrated Phase I of the portal to workshop attendees.

In this case, the shopping cart carries free goodies.

The Web portal has a function that works like an online shopping cart. Information can be retrieved and placed into the cart for download, allowing the user to look at whatever tables of data are needed in each specific case.

“All the data that’s on this website is already publicly accessible, but its available in a variety of locations,” Puls said.

The magnitude of available information from so many organizations makes it difficult to find relevant data. More than 20 different federal and state jurisdictions, agencies, tribes and organizations with responsibility for areas of water management in Oklahoma maintain data sources online. The Web portal connects users to all of those sources.

Information retrieval is based on geographic and water boundary criteria — users can key to a specific location, watershed, or aquifer.

Information from multiple sources can be selected, and the data submitted into the data “shopping cart” for download into zip files that a user can access later.

Sources include the U.S. Geological Survey, Oklahoma Water Resources Board, Oklahoma Mesonet, Environmental Protection Agency, several Oklahoma tribes, Oklahoma Corporation Commission and the Oklahoma Department of Agriculture, Food and Forestry.

A wide variety of information is available to a user’s fingertips, including water quality monitoring, OWRB project monitoring wells, watershed data, and groundwater data. The Web portal allows for selecting specified time intervals that are relevant to the user’s needs.

Watershed dashboards list all of the watersheds and sub watersheds in the state and the location can be seen on a map with a zoom. Streamflow discharge and gage height, water quality data and more is available depending on the selected site.

In the future, Puls said the Oklahoma Water Survey will increase the data sources available through the portal and could include the Bureau of Reclamation, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the National Weather Service River Forecast Center, Grand River Dam Authority and others.

Eventually, social economic data and additional modeling and visualization tools will enhance the Web portal further.

©2014 The Norman Transcript (Norman, Okla.)