One Million Datapoints and climbing, the Watershed Management Division is Building New Tools for Water Information
The Watershed Management Division conducts a wide variety of water testing efforts throughout the State. Prior Flow posts have highlighted the role of citizen monitors, long-term projects on acid rain, and the use of hidden stream life to understand the condition and health of our lakes, wetlands, and streams. While the results of this work are important and are used in a wide variety of ways to manage waters, in this post, we spotlight work that is equally important, but seldom seen; the maintenance and archiving of our water quality data into the Division’s Water Quality Database System.
On February 11th, 2014, the Division passed an important milestone for the Water Quality Database System. With the upload of the 2013 season of data from the Lake Champlain Long-term Monitoring Project, the Division’s water database has now surpassed the one-million mark for water chemistry datapoints entered. This means that there are over one-million quality-assured measurements available since before 1975, describing the temperature, acidity, nutrient concentration, toxic contaminant burden, or other chemical aspects of our surface waters. That’s a lot of data, but that pales in comparison to the 3.4 million individual macroinvertebrates counted by our biologists in this same timeframe. Quantity is great, but this information can only be considered vital when it is used by the Division and its partners, and also made available to the public for their own use and understanding. Over the past years, the Division has progressed from providing simple summaries of lake water testing information, to project-specific datasets, to complex data retrieval tools for stream geomorphic assessments. We also provide access to USGS and USEPA datasets which compile Vermont data with other national data sources. This, however, is not quite sufficient. There is more the Division intends to do.
Current directions in water data management in the Division include the development of geographic and watershed-based retrieval tools for chemical, biological, and physical information. In addition to tools like the BioFinder, the ANR ATLAS now also presents the results of biological assessments for sites throughout Vermont (see for example Atlas LayersàWatershed ProtectionàIWIS Biomonitoring Sites), while the Lakes Scorecard presents unified assessments of lakes in an easy to use GoogleEarth format.
Looking ahead, the Division will roll out complex data retrieval tools such as the Watershed Management and Assessment Data Reporting Portal. This tool will allow the user access to all biological and chemical data currently stored in the Water Quality Database System, with simple yet highly functional sorting and query tools. The Division’s water quality monitoring partners should look for an opportunity to test the system, and are welcome to contact the Monitoring, Assessment and Planning Program to learn more.