The CUAHSI Water Data Center: Empowering scientists to discover, use, store, and share water data

Alva L
“Water is Everywhere”
"Water is everywhere." This sentiment underscores the importance of instilling hydrologic and earth science literacy in educators, students, and the general public, but also presents challenges for water scientists and educators in distributing, accessing, and interpreting water data. Scientific data about water is collected and distributed by many different sources, from federal agencies, to scientific investigators, to citizen scientists. As competition for limited water resources increases, increasing access to and understanding of the wealth of information about the nation's and the world's water will be critical. The CUAHSI-HIS system is a web based system for sharing hydrologic data that can help address this need. Looking towards the future, the Water Data Center will build upon this large prototype – developed over the past decade - to create and maintain production quality water data resources.

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Using CUAHSI HIS: The HydroDesktop Client
A services-oriented architecture enables different data access clients to be customized for specific purposes. Currently, the main data access client is HydroDesktop, a program for the Windows environment that combines an open-source GIS package with a data discovery client that searches the HIS Central catalog. HydroDesktop searches for data by: • Geography (Bounding box or GIS Coverage) • Time • Property Measured • Data Source GIS Coverages included with HydroDesktop download: • Political Boundaries (Country, U.S. State, U.S. County) • HUC8 • Ability to delineate watersheds using EPA web services

The CUAHSI Hydrologic Information System (HIS) is an internet-based system for sharing hydrologic data. It consists of three components: a client (HydroDesktop),a data server stack (HydroServer), and a central metadata registry (HydroCatalog). These components use WaterML as a transmission language for metadata and data. WaterML has recently been accepted as an international standard for time-series data by the Open Geospatial Consortium. HIS uses a “Service-Oriented Architecture (SOA)” like those mandated by US government agencies for distribution of government-collected data. The SOA provides an environment similar to search engines like Google, but specifically for water data sources:

Figure 1: A prototype “faceted search” web-based client that allows users to refine search results by specifying one “facet” of the metadata to filter at a time. The use of almost all metadata fields as search filters greatly speeds data discovery for specific geographic regions and quickly indicates the extent of data of interest.

GIS Layers

Map Interface

Data Values

Achieving the Mission
The Water Data Center will take advantage of technological advances, such as cloud computing and ubiquitous web access, to fundamentally alter the way earth scientists conduct their research and educate the next generation of water scientists, and develop a more complete understanding of the Earth System through data. The WDC will: • Interface accessible.

with other data centers

to make their data more

How the Web Works…

Catalog (Google)
How Did We Get Here? The HIS & WDC Timeline
Production Quality Resources

• Rigorously curate the water data catalog, to ensure accuracy of records and existence of declared sources, and provide data backup and failover services for “at risk” data sources. • Partner with researchers to extend the state of the art in water data use. • Partner with industry
to create plug-and-play data publishing from sensors, and to create domain-specific tools.

Web Server (


Browser (Firefox)

HIS Pilot

HIS Development

HIS Prototype

• Support ubiquitously accessible data discovery and access, web-based search and Smartphone applications.
Water Researchers (1) Water Research Community (5)

Water Data Center

HTML – web language for text and pictures


Water Research Subscribers (2)

How HIS Works…

Principal Investigator – David Maidment, The University of Texas at Austin & several other universities CUAHSI-led effort that involves several universities
Water Research Partners (3)

D at aM an a Serv geme nt ices

e nc s a rn itie e r v Go Prio d an

Vendor Partners (4)

cts u d o r P ta New Da rvices an d S e y es, a l -P rfac s d n te -In a g t In lug u l P en y P um ver r t o Ins Disc

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CUAHSI Water Data Center

Data Products, Software, Best Practices
Sta Stand nd a Wr ards rds a ap p - C o n d ers mp /Br lian oke t rs

Other GeoData Centers (6)

The Water Data Center
Data access
The CUAHSI HIS system has seen increasing adoption by the water science community over time, with 23 new services registered by data providers in 2012, and interest and cooperation from government agencies to make their data available through the system. With the development phase ended, CUAHSI’s role as a community organization is to maintain and operate this system long term through a Water Data Center.

Government Data Providers, Decision-Makers (7)

Active Development Projects
An important function of the WDC will be to collaborate with researchers to create production quality resources resulting from research projects developed in the academic community. Such efforts are currently active, ongoing, and include the following: HydroShare - An Interactive Software Infrastructure for Sustaining Collaborative Community Innovation in the Hydrologic Sciences: HydroShare is a collaboration led by researchers at Utah State University, RENCI at UNC Chapel Hill, and CUAHSI. This project is developing sustainable cyberinfrastructure for better access to water-related data and models in the hydrologic sciences, enabling hydrologists and other associated communities to collaborate and combine data and models from multiple sources. For more, visit: Development of Community-Based Ontology and Standards for Hydrologic Data Discovery and Exchange: This project is developing a more comprehensive, extensible ontology that harmonizes the more generic information model contained within the existing HIS data model with those from various existing federal information sources. For more, visit:



WaterML – web language for water data

What is the Water Data Center?
The Water Data Center (WDC) is a virtual deployment of CUAHSI HIS to the Microsoft Azure cloud and includes support personnel for software development, data curation, and user support.

Using CUAHSI HIS: The HIS Central Metadata Catalog

Access over 90 hydrologic data sources including over 25 universities, state and provincial agencies, and multiple federal agencies with one catalog!

WDC Mission
Providing Production Quality Water Data Resources
The mission of the WDC is to empower scientists to discover, use, store, and share water data by: • providing simple and effective data discovery tools useful to researchers and educators in a variety of water-related disciplines.

Map integrating NWIS, STORET, & Climatic Sites

• providing simple and cost-effective data publication mechanisms for projects that do not desire to run their own data servers, and provide long term archiving of university research data. • providing educational and outreach resources that focus on data-driven and place-based learning.

Data Sources Available
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• working with government data providers and decision-makers to broker government data sources and to develop data standards to make more water data more easily accessible to the water research and education community. • developing alternative data discovery interfaces such as web-based search clients and mobile applications that enhance the accessibility of water data by diverse audiences.

This work has been supported by National Science Foundation grants EAR 07-53921 to CUAHSI and EAR 06-22374 to the University of Texas. CUAHSI HIS has been developed by a large team of colleagues from the University of Texas, San Diego Supercomputing Center, Utah State University, Idaho State University, Drexel University, City College of New York, and University of South Carolina.

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