As Information Age floodgates of data open ever wider, the question becomes less about access to information, but making the mountains of publicly accessible info comprehensible.
More and more, it’s about the portals – the access points to the information trove that help viewers better understand what they are seeing.
The most recent contribution on this front from the Arizona Department of Water Resources is known as the Open Data Portal, a more consumer-friendly means of retrieving ADWR’s spatial datasets and web applications.
A main feature of the Department’s latest portal is its capacity to perform basic exploratory spatial data analysis using embedded maps on site.
ADWR data analysts field a great many requests for the vast bank of “GIS” data and maps that are stored on the Department’s website. “GIS” stands for “Geographic Information Systems,” a mapping technology that allows the user to create and interact with a variety of maps and data sources.
GIS systems are widely used for capturing, storing, checking, and displaying data related to positions on Earth's surface. By relating seemingly unrelated data, GIS can help individuals and organizations better understand spatial patterns and relationships.
Like other “portals” on ADWR’s website, the Open Data Portal is built on ArcGIS software designed by Esri, a Redlands, Calif., company that supplies geographic information system software, web GIS and geodatabase management applications.
ArcGIS “is our main software component,” said ADWR GIS analyst Robert Hadsell, the designer of the Open Data Portal.
“It opens the door to what we are allowed to share with the public. They can search for a data set that they are in need of, then they can download it into various data types.”
Not surprisingly, much of the information that researchers – including many hydrologists and students of hydrology -- request from the Department involves underground water storage and wells.
In addition to offering multiple “portals” for viewing data, the site’s data is extremely timely, being updated almost to the minute.
“Some of the web apps (have) 24-hour lag time. But with this, if somebody added a well at noon and the data base was updated at 12:01, you’re going to see here it at 12:02.”
Podcast: Arizona Water Resources talks with GIS Analyst Robert Hadsell on the new Open Data Portal