Western States Water Council

A Voice for Water in the West 

Users Engagement Report: Western States Water Data Access and Analysis Tool (WestDAAT)

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Executive Summary

This report summarizes the Western States Water Council (WSWC) engagement campaign with users pre- and post-development of the Western States Water Data Access and Analysis Tool (WestDAAT),[1] mainly from September 2021 through September 2023. The engagement campaign reached out to dozens of stakeholders and organizations, drawing traffic and users to WestDAAT, who provided valuable feedback.

WestDAAT is the latest phase of the WSWC Water Data Exchange (WaDE) Program, which facilitates the sharing of member states’ water-related data through a common platform.[2] WestDAAT provides user-friendly access to data available in a machine-readable format for over 2.5 million active water rights across eighteen western states. WestDAAT also catalogs the most common metadata and provides a direct link to each state’s water rights database for further information. For a decade before WestDAAT’s launch, the WaDE team worked on communicating the value of streamlining access to Western States’ water data through the WaDE Program. Designing WestDAAT as the front-end tool has been a game-changer. WestDAAT is intended to be user-friendly, focusing on the user experience. It was developed using conceptual “personas,” testing a prototype application, and creating detailed mockups of the designs. As a result, we feel confident most users can benefit from WestDAAT’s capabilities with little instruction.

WestDAAT’s main development period occurred from March 2021 through September 2021. It was publicly released in April 2023 through an Internet of Water (IoW) Coalition webinar. An IoW Coalition blog post later in August highlighted its capabilities and applications.[3]

The engagement focused on six distinct categories of WestDAAT users as illustrative personas with different roles in managing or understanding water resources and varying water data needs.[4] WSWC staff held dozens of in-person workshops and virtual calls, including hundreds of diverse users and organizations that best represented the six identified personas. The six personas include: (1) Gary, the Governor; (2) Stan, the State Engineer; (3) Maggie, the River Basin Manager; (4) Laila, the Land Use Manager; (5) Frank, the Farmer/Irrigation Canal Company Manager; and (6) Ratibah the Researcher/Consultant.

The depth and breadth of the stakeholder engagement campaign pre-and post-WestDAAT’s development was very useful to the WaDE team in: (1) testing its performance and user experience; (2) adjusting WestDAAT’s design to be more user-friendly and addressing software bugs; and (3) soliciting users’ feedback on how WestDAAT might be helpful and what additional features they would like to see to further support their own individual applications, or use cases. The most notable pre-design engagement was an in-person workshop that included multiple varied potential users and personas held in Las Vegas on December 15, 2021, in cooperation with the Colorado River Water Users Association (CRWUA).[5]

Engaged individuals recognized WestDAAT’s potential value.

  • The WSWC, as an instrumentality of the states, has decades of experience coordinating efforts among its member states, which gives WestDAAT credibility and sustainability.
  • WestDAAT is a “one-stop” shop for publicly available data that is accessible through a web browser with a dozen filters to query data at regional and local scales.
  • WestDAAT serves as a catalog of water rights with the ability to visit states-based webpages from the generated landing pages.
  • WestDAAT provides data analytics through pie charts, summary tables, mass-data downloads, and a public Application Programming Interface (API) for large-scale data retrieval outside WestDAAT.
  • WestDAAT offered a macro-region or basin-wide view of water rights and metadata as a reference and for comparison between states.
  • WestDAAT offers common (along with state-based) terminology describing water rights metadata, which is particularly useful for the owner and beneficial for use classification.
  • WestDAAT integrated the Hydro Network-Linked Data Index (NLDI) tool to query upstream and downstream water rights with U.S Geological Survey (USGS) streamgage and Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) water quality monitoring stations.

 

Key recommendations from engaged state officials and stakeholders included

  • Support for updating WestDAAT data more frequently to account for changes in the source data.
  • Sharing reported water withdrawal, pumping, and use data in WaDE for existing water rights.
  • Integrating OpenET mapping of net evapotranspiration (ET) data to estimate consumptive use, especially for voluntary, compensated, and temporary conservation actions.
  • Showing data provided by states and the Bureau of Reclamation’s (USBR) active and historical water storage and streamflow (i.e., availability).
  • Further fine-tune the NLDI tool to include specific search parameters such as measured variables (e.g., salinity, streamgage flow, etc.) and time range on active and inactive measuring sites.
  • Expand WaDE and WestDAAT’s capabilities to support metadata for groundwater wells, such as depth, capacity, aquifer name, and drill date.
  • Support new water data filters to query: (1) the legal status of active water rights, such as vested or adjudicated water rights and pending applications in a given area; (2) the public or private legal basis of the water right (such as prior appropriation, riparian, reasonable use, and correlative rights, or absolute ownership, as well as uses exempt from permitting); (3) the water source name (e.g., Colorado River); and (4) by point of diversion and site type (e.g., dam, canal, weir, well, etc.).
  • Expand WestDAAT’s ability to query for water rights within an administrative or regulatory boundary with geospatial overlays to identify active management areas or areas with water rights conditions or water use restrictions.
  • Similarly, support querying surface water rights within a known basin or groundwater wells within a known aquifer.
  • Also, support querying water rights ownership based on a land management type boundary such as for the U.S. Forest Service (USFS) or Bureau of Land Management (BLM).
  • Support uploading a user-generated custom geospatial boundary into WestDAAT to query water rights within a user-defined area.

 

WestDAAT now has a growing user base that will be a catalyst for further engagement and a growing potential to support sound decision-making across the West.

 

 

References

[1] WestDAAT: https://westdaat.westernstateswater.org

[2] WaDE Program: https://westernstateswater.org/wade

[3] Unveiling WestDAAT: https://internetofwater.org/blog/unveiling-westdaat-a-breakthrough-for-water-rights-data-management-in-the-western-united-states

[4] A document for focus groups to help the WaDE team refine, revise, and improve the

designs of the upcoming WestDAAT: https://westernstateswater.org/wp-content/uploads/2021/09/WestDAAT-Persona-Use-Cases_-Focus-Group-Doc_09_01_2021.pdf

[5] CRWUA 2021 WestDAAT Pre-Design Engagement Workshop: https://westernstateswater.org/events/crwua-2021-westdaat-pre-design-engagement-workshop

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