Ben Kerr, Foundry Spatial CEO and Chief Water Scientist reflects on connecting live data to resource decision-making
December 20, 2016
The open data movement has been picking up steam over the past few years, seeing governments of all sizes apply open data licences to their data holdings, allowing other organization to access that data and reuse it for their own needs. For example, the City of Surrey is a leader in open municipal data management, and is cultivating a vibrant ecosystem based on their strong open data foundation, part of which includes live sensor data from the Fraser River.
The Fraser River flows from its headwater in the Rocky Mountains through southern BC before passing through the Fraser River Delta and emptying into the ocean. Surrey, part of Greater Vancouver, has the Fraser River as its northern border. Every May, flows on the Fraser reliably rise as snow inland begins to melt. Naturally, Surrey is required to monitor the level of the river, and as it rises specific management actions are triggered such as dyke inspections, and construction of flood protection measures in case of extreme high water.
In addition to Surrey, a range of organizations collect data on Fraser River levels, including Environment Canada, the Department of Fisheries and Oceans, and the Corporation of Delta. Foundry Spatial is also involved. Along with the City of Surrey, we brought together data from all of these organizations into a website application that shows current conditions at a dozen locations on the river. This allows public safety staff and other decision makers at Surrey quickly and easily see what is happening to the Fraser – how far water levels are from specific trigger levels, and how the current year compares to memorable years from the past – for example the substantial floods of 2007.
Check out the application: http://surrey.foundryspatial.com/map/
The power of what we built lies in replacing what was a hugely time-consuming task for Surrey staff: compiling data week after week into a series of static charts which would then be emailed around. Now, interested parties – both staff and the general public – can access the information on-demand, and get a much richer sense of the water flow situation, including map-based access to the location of monitoring sensors on the river.
The benefits are clear: saving Surrey time and money, making information distribution easy and immediate, enabling accurate and fast resource- and safety-related decisions, and “democratizing” water science by making the data and thus the decisions more transparent.
Foundry Spatial manages live data from thousands of monitoring locations streaming into our databases every day – if you have data that you need to connect to a decision, let us know – we’d love to help!