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Have you ever wondered if you could swim, drink, or eat fish from the waters near you? EPA’s How’s My Waterway allows users to access a large amount of data to begin to answer these questions.

Water is an essential resource, used and reused several times as it flows from the mountains to the oceans. Because of the nature of water in how it flows and connects across the landscape, it is important to consider the relational concepts between water data. Data can range from foundational data like water sampling data to derivative conclusions such as water quality assessments. It is critical to understand regulatory concepts around how water is used and what can be discharged to water as well as the relationship between land-use and runoff.

This challenge of thinking holistically across the water cycle has led federal, state, and tribal agencies to undertake data integration efforts. A recent collaborative effort called the Internet of Water has put a name and purpose around this collaboration. Duke University recently published a list of Internet of Water principles, referenced in the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law as a guide for how to make water data more discoverable and interoperable following the FAIR principles (Findable, Accessible, Interoperable, Reusable).

The lessons learned by the water data community have formed the basic concepts behind the Internet of Water. It is through these partnerships that we can identify common data standards for categories of data like the Water Quality Exchange (WQX) for water quality sampling data or the Water Data Exchange for water allocation and use data. These standards become foundational for enabling broad partners to exchange and share data. They allow the community to focus around the “science” and the necessary data elements to describe a business process as opposed to focusing on the technology. The WQX data model, for example, enabled EPA and the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) to collaborate on a common approach for publishing their respective water quality data in a consistent way (see the Water Quality Portal, which is standards-based, is supported by Application Program Interfaces, and is the de-facto example of how to make the Internet of Water work) and uses similar approaches as described in the E-Enterprise Digital Strategy. Using common terminology is also a critical component of water data interoperability. Shared services like the Substance Registry Services and other domain services are critical to success.

To optimize the use of water data, it should be discoverable within the context of what’s upstream or downstream of a given location. Through collaboration with USGS, EPA leverages the National Hydrography Dataset Plus to provide a common addressing system to connect data to the common hydrography. Innovative efforts are underway to expand this capability for others to leverage these networks through tools like the Hydro Network-Linked Data Index and Geoconnex. This capability will continue to evolve.

For more information, contact Dwane Young of EPA.