Ecoinformatics Conference Service, Environmental Information Management 2008

Managing Information for Environmental Flows in Texas

Eric S Hersh, David R Maidment

Last modified: 2008-08-21


Environmental flow is water left in or released into a river system, often for managing some aspect of its conditions. The goal may be, for example, the broad maintenance of a healthy river ecosystem or the narrow focus of ensuring the survival of an individual species. Relevant data describing the stream flow, water chemistry, geomorphology, and biology of streams and rivers is often contained in a variety of formats and in many geographic locations. Thus, an information system is developed to organize and make available data relevant to the study of environmental flows in a consistent and accessible format. Relevant data from hydrology and hydraulics, water quality, climatology, geomorphology and physical processes, and biology is assembled to facilitate data discovery, acquisition, and sharing.
Working symbiotically with the Consortium of Universities for the Advancement of Hydrologic Science, Inc. (CUAHSI) Hydrologic Information System (HIS) project, an NSF-supported effort to improve access to hydrologic data at the nation's universities, environmental flows data is stored in the CUAHSI Observations Data Model and web services are established for the computer-to-computer communication of data in order to extract data from disparate sources in disparate formats, to transform the data into the common language of CUAHSI WaterML, and to load the data into an end user's system. The environmental flows information system includes a linkage to a georeferenced digital archive of documents providing for parallel access to both data and the knowledge products derived from that data. Via the Data Model and accompanying Document Model, an information system capable of managing observational data, geographic data, modeled/constructed data, and documents is offered.
A prototype environmental flows information system is developed for the State of Texas which incorporates relevant known available datasets from federal, state, academic, river basin, and local sources. Tools are developed to assist in the publishing, visualization, and access of data and documents via map-based, spreadsheet-based, and other methods. The information system might be used to provide: (1) rapid low-cost data integration, (2) improved data access for the public, and (3) support for the analysis and determination of environmental flow needs. The environmental flows information system represents the integration of the physical, chemical, and biological information for rivers and streams in a consistent and accessible manner in one system in one place.