Who gets water at what prices in the US still appears to be considered a local issue in the US at its core, and at best regional during droughts that cross borders or as it pertains to agricultural use and ‘retail’ (cities and burbs).
The issue of private versus public ownership is not very visible yet in US news, nor our need to repair our infrastructure (see my series on water links to Part 1-5) . And our friends in Texas haven’t sent any recent alerts to me on their current problems (have any of us followed any other drought concerns on the national stage?). Water distribution questions did actually make national news in 2007/2008 droughts along the east coast and southwest but quickly disappeared. However, the fault lines on who has access to water, news on how we actually obtain fresh water, and questions on price structures became quite sharp and very legal in a only a year or two.
The question on an international scale remains largely invisible to US and perhaps is time to revisit. The IMF and World Trade Organization ownership rules are considered arcane and not relevant unless it involves the occasional town water supply and a company like Nestle’s.
I’ve been looking for a centralized source of water data for over a year, a place where I could go to find data on any kind of water question.
Although that quest led me to IBNET — a fantastic resource on water utility data in many countries — I was unable to find a good centralized index of water data.
Even more depressing, I was unable to get any interest or support out of organizations (USGS, World Bank, OECD, et al.) whose missions might imply support for just such an idea.
So, I decided to set up my own water data hub (WDH) — a central location that links to water data, no matter where it is, who owns it, or what dimension of water it describes.
Last November, I asked for help on this project, and Ian Wren (from San Francisco) joined me.
It’s thanks to Ian’s hard work (weekends and evenings!) that I can now invite you to visit waterdatahub.org!
So, please go there and add data sources. The WDH, like any network, gains value with the number of links.
Oh, and don’t forget that anyone can add a link to the hub. You only need a WDH account (free and easy to set up). So, go ahead and add your favorite data source from the World Bank, Exxon-Mobile, the Nature Conservancy, et al.
Note by my wording that the WDH does not host, own or control data. It’s basically an index of data controlled by other organizations.
The big goal now is to make a census of data, so that we know what exists, what’s missing and what overlaps.
- WDH 1.1: You can add records for data that exist but are not available to the public. This will make it easier to contact data owners to ask for access and — hopefully — to pressure them to release it to the public.
- WDH 1.2: Anyone can comment on the quality of data sources held elsewhere; this will help everyone understand the uses and limitations of data — information that is not necessarily available from data owners.
- WDH 2.0 (2013): We will start the very difficult process of “normalizing” data from many sources (using translation tables) to make it possible to assemble a data table from 2+ sources linked to the WDH.
Note that the WDH will make it easier for anyone who analyzes data to do their job; analysis is too difficult to automate.
As you might expect, I am running WDH as a stand-alone, academic, non-profit. At the moment, we do not need money as much as your time.
Bottom Line: Please add new spokes to the WDH (get it?) and tell others about the water data hub.