News Feature | November 13, 2017

Is An 'Open Internet' Needed For Water Data?

Sara Jerome

By Sara Jerome,

Researchers at Duke University and the Aspen Institute are trying to improve the availability of water quality data by proposing an “open internet of water.”

Some of the questions this proposal aims to answer: “Where did the water coming out of your tap come from? How is it filtered and purified? How much does it cost the city and state per gallon to deliver? How can they improve that?” TechCrunch reported.

Martin Doyle of Duke’s Nicholas Institute explained the need for more transparency around water data.

“Our water world is data rich, but information poor,” he said, per TechCrunch. “If water data were shared openly and then integrated in a common digital platform, there would be game-changing opportunities ranging from private citizens’ ability to gauge the quality of local water to public officials’ ability to warn populations of water-borne public health hazards.”

So, what would an open internet of water look like?

“To realize the dormant value of the data, say some producers and users, would require making them widely shareable in standardized digital formats, thereby allowing their real-time aggregation for a host of purposes beyond those that spurred their original collection,” according to a statement on the project.

“They believe that opening the data and investing in water data infrastructure would set in motion a wave of innovation, leading to more sustainable management of our water resources. They envision creation of an Internet of Water,” it continued.

Water wonks have long bemoaned the disorganization and difficulty of sharing water data. In that sense, water is “broken,” according to water expert Charles Fishman, writing in The New York Times.

“Water may be the most important item in our lives, our economy and our landscape about which we know the least. We not only don’t tabulate our water use every hour or every day, we don’t do it every month, or even every year,” Fishman wrote.