Posted by: Vicki Burns | October 24, 2011

The Water and Environmental Hub – Making Water and Environmental Data More Accessible

I just learned about a very unique project, the Water and Environmental Hub (WEHUB), that makes water data much easier to access. It is based on an open source web platform that allows users to download, analyze, model and make use of water and environmental information. It could really facilitate the sharing of information without the hassle that currently goes with trying to access data from various departments, universities, etc. Alex Joseph, the Executive Director of WEHUB, explains that there is currently no Google for water data and the WEHUB is, in a way, trying to make access to this data as easy as “googling” it.

map of the Lake Winnipeg watershed outlining the different rivr basins which ar part of it

Lake Winnipeg Watershed - courtesy of Partners for the Saskatchewan River Basin

This concept seems so appropriate to be applied to water data because when you think about water, you have to realize that it is crossing so many man-made political boundaries. Each jurisdiction has their own particular way of collecting and recording data but the information gleaned from this data has relevance across all of these boundaries. As we know in Manitoba, the problems that are besieging Lake Winnipeg, are the cumulative result of water that has flowed throughout the watershed from The Rocky Mountains across Alberta, Saskatchewan and into Manitoba. From the south the water is flowing in the Red River starting in South Dakota and moving through North Dakota into Manitoba. From the east, the water starts almost at Lake Superior and moves through Ontario and Minnesota into Manitoba. That makes a lot of political boundaries for Lake Winnipeg’s water to cross.
It seems to me that it makes tremendous sense to use a system that will allow all those people working on and researching water issues, to have the easiest access to all the data available. I think the challenge will be to encourage everyone to use this web platform by sharing their own data and making use of data uploaded by others. It may require a letting go of “turf” and a genuine recognition of the value and synergies of collaborative efforts.

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