Stormwater Evolution Through an Open Data Revolution
If we ever hope to evolve from managing urban stormwater runoff as a source to a resource, we must expand the capacity to adaptively manage stormwater programs by linking decisions to the collection and assessment of data. There are a number of promising emerging technologies and tools for doing this, including the use of GIS applications, but before they can be used effectively in a decision making process, you need to first make sure you are collecting the right data. The Orange County Stormwater Program (Program) advocates a question-driven monitoring assessment approach that seeks answers to the following fundamental questions:
1. Is there a problem?
2. If so, what is the magnitude and extent?
3. What are the sources?
4. Are conditions getting better or worse?
5. Are management actions working as intended?
The principal permittee of the Program, OC Public Works, is exploring new methods of data acquisition and visualization that support this assessment approach by:
1. Providing easy access to open data in an environment where spatial and temporal analysis can be performed;
2. Promoting real time acquisition and visualization of data using remote sensors and mobile data collection tools; and,
3. Facilitating interpretation and analysis of data to support an effective decision-making process.
The use of cloud-based applications has allowed OC Public Works to integrate a number of applications. For example, mobile data collection is now being done interactively with established SQL server databases which are used to manage hydrologic and water quality data. As observations, instrument readings, and photos are collected by field staff, they are uploaded though a cloud-based application which automatically populates a database, eliminating the need for the data to be handled more than once. At the same time, this mobile data is pushed to a GIS portal where it can be viewed in real time by program managers, stakeholders, and the public, depending on the need.
Supplementing the mobile data collection efforts of field staff, OC Public Works is now utilizing remote water quality and flow sensors that transmit data in real time using cellular technology. This allows physical parameters to be monitored in real time over extended periods, which provides valuable information on how a specific location is impacted by different sized storm events. This technology also holds tremendous potential for developing greater understanding of changes in conditions during dry weather. OC Public Works is using the technology to develop wet and dry weather profiles at several outfalls in south Orange County in support of the development of a Water Quality Improvement Plan.
Another technology OC Public Works is pursuing in terms of increasing the ability to link monitoring data to inform stormwater program decision making is remote sensing data from aerial imagery. For localized areas such as stream/creek reaches, and basins, the use of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) equipped with cameras able to generate 3D imagery has greatly reduced the amount of time it takes to collect high quality visual data. For larger areas, the use of fixed wing aircraft and helicopters equipped with LiDAR and multi-spectral ban sensors is being explored.
To assist decision-makers with interpretation and analysis of water quality monitoring and other data types, OC Public Works staff is also working on dashboard visualization tools and the use of indices that can aggregate large amounts of complex data and provide answers to the 5 fundamental assessment questions. An example of this approach in use was the project that won the inaugural CA Water Data Innovation Challenge on April 22, 2016 (developed by a team of OC Public Works staff partnering with CloudCompli). The presentation will highlight this along with other innovative open data efforts.