Developing a Sustainable Framework to Support Open Data for Reclamations Colorado River Basin Decision Support Systems

Project ID: 5541
Principal Investigator: Allison Danner
Research Topic: Water Operation Models and Decision Support Systems
Funded Fiscal Years: 2016, 2017 and 2018
Keywords: None

Research Question

How can Reclamation develop a hardware and software framework to support making datasets for Colorado River
(CR) basin decision support systems (DSSs) available within the boundaries established by Executive Order 13642
(Making Open and Machine Readable the New Default for Government Information)? How could datasets used in
drought characterization and decision support tools be used with CR basin DSS datasets to support advanced
analyses? How can prize competitions encourage creative development of data visualization and analysis tools
using open water data?
The project will explore what data characteristics Reclamation users and stakeholders require in order to use open
datasets, the technical and organizational requirements to enable Reclamation DSS inputs and outputs to be fully
described, viewed/queried geospatially, harvested automatically by computer, and made available in machine
readable and interoperable formats via public data platforms such as
Project scope includes utilizing or developing processes to address privacy, confidentiality, and security concerns
when considering whether to make DSS inputs and outputs interoperable, engaging stakeholders for
input/feedback on processes and data, developing visualization and analysis tools to support drought

Need and Benefit

This project is part of the Department of Interior's Open Water Data Initiative (OWDI, chartered by the DOI and
conducted via the Subcommittee on Spatial Water Data, a subcommittee under the Advisory Committee on Water
Information/Federal Geographic Data Committee). The OWDI aims to "integrate currently fragmented water
information into a connected, national water data framework and leverage existing systems, infrastructure and
tools to underpin innovation, modeling, data sharing, and solution development." (Source:
On June 2, 2015, the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources held a hearing on drought conditions in
the West and actions that states and others are taking to address them. Participants expressed a need for
collaborative data collection, analysis, and sharing, with DOI Deputy Secretary Michael Connor citing the OWDI as
an example of how the DOI is working to address that need.
Reclamation's role in the OWDI is in conducting a pilot-project in the Lower Colorado Region to make Colorado
River water-related data open and machine-readable. These activities support the OWDI Drought Use Case Team
which is developing a regional drought decision support system, currently focused on the Colorado River Basin.
Reclamation maintains a decision support system for operating the upper and lower Colorado River. Elements of
the system are available to stakeholders, but the input and output datasets are not necessarily available to
stakeholders in automatically downloadable or machine-readable formats, nor necessarily linked to public dataset
platforms, nor in all cases fully described with metadata.
Reclamation acquires input datasets from internal and external providers and provides model output datasets to
requestors; if input and output datasets were available in open formats (after appropriate review), Reclamation's
workload to acquire datasets and to fulfill external requests would be reduced. Stakeholders and the public would
also have ready access to datasets for advanced analysis.
Research results will be directly applicable within the Upper Colorado and Lower Colorado Regions, and ultimately
will be portable to other Regions with operational/long-term planning models wishing to make data
open/accessible (such as the Truckee and upper Rio Grande river basins).
If this research is not funded, Reclamation will continue to acquire input data and produce model outputs
following its current process, and data related to Colorado River DSSs would continue to be available in its current
forms - not necessarily openly available, machine readable, linked to public dataset platforms, or readily available
to the public for advanced analyses.

Contributing Partners

Contact the Principal Investigator for information about partners.

Research Products

Bureau of Reclamation Review

The following documents were reviewed by experts in fields relating to this project's study and findings. The results were determined to be achieved using valid means.

Developing a Sustainable Framework to Support Open Data for Reclamations Colorado River Basin Decision Support Systems (final, PDF, 1.4MB)
By Allison Odell
Research Product completed on September 30, 2019

This research product summarizes the research results and potential application to Reclamation's mission.

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Last Updated: 6/22/20