NOAA Unveils New Water Resources Dashboard

Water is a huge subject in the world of planning, and the question of where to find reliable data looms large in an era of climate change, when hazards like drought, sea level rise, flooding, and extreme precipitation events are taking on new dimensions in the face of growing concerns about community resilience.

APA's Board of Directors has made water a policy priority in recent years with the report of its Water Task Force and the ongoing work of its Water Working Group.

APA Research Staff Has Been Busy

At the invitation of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), APA has worked alongside several water-related organizations to assist and advise NOAA in creating a new Water Resources Dashboard as part of its existing U.S. Climate Resilience Toolkit.

Those organizations include the American Water Works Association, Association of Metropolitan Water Agencies, Water Environment Federation, Water Environment Research Foundation, and the Water Research Foundation, which between them represent the core of those professions involved in water resource management, including water planners.

APA was represented primarily by David Rouse, AICP, director of Research and Advisory Services, and Jim Schwab, manager of the APA Hazards Planning Center. All these organizations and NOAA spent a year and a half determining what datasets would be most valuable to potential users.

What Does the Dashboard Look Like?

It is designed to serve multiple audiences, starting with those who need information on short- and medium-term forecasts, such as precipitation and storm predictions as well as predictions for other hazards, such as wildfire and strong winds. It also incorporates links to other existing hazard-related sites such as the U.S. Drought Portal, a service of the National Integrated Drought Information System. There is also a raft of other portals, however, pertaining to data about river and stream flows, water quality, soil moisture, and snow cover. Finally, the Water Resources Dashboard is a source of maps on social vulnerability, population densities, land cover, and flood hazards, among other options, as well as historical weather and climate observations on many of these subjects.

In a planning environment where concise, visually attractive, and digestible data are increasingly important, the new Dashboard should fill some urgent needs and make some planners' jobs a little bit easier.

Top image: Screenshot of the NOAA Dashboard.

About the Author
James C. Schwab is the manager of APA's Hazards Planning Center.

March 29, 2016

By James Schwab, FAICP