Innovative Tool Integrates Water Resource Management
Innovative groundwater management has long put Nebraska in the national spotlight. Now, with help from a multidisciplinary university team, the state is better managing all of its water resources.
In nature, surface water and groundwater are interconnected – siphoning one affects the other. States, however, have traditionally managed the two water sources independently.
To integrate water management, the university helped the Nebraska Department of Natural Resources create INSIGHT, the Integrated Network of Scientific Information and GeoHydrologic Tools. This advanced web-based tool consolidates hydrologic data from across the state into an easily accessible format.
INSIGHT provides a more detailed understanding of water conditions at state and local levels to water managers, municipalities, industry, farmers and other water users.
“With this kind of transparent data system, water managers can allocate water resources better to support the state’s economy,” said project co-leader Zhenghong Tang, professor of community and regional planning and Hyde Professor in the College of Architecture.
As climate change increases the number and severity of droughts, better managing water resources becomes even more critical to sustaining limited resources and reducing water conflicts.
Consolidating data from across government agencies and allowing diverse users to access and understand the data intuitively presented challenges. Tang brought geospatial and hydrologic experience to the problem. Co-leader Hongfeng Yu, associate professor of computer science and engineering, brought expertise in information technology.
Their solution was to create a scalable database system that uses an interactive map capable of zooming between state, basin and sub-basin levels. Data presented among the map changes automatically to coincide with the map view.
“The tool’s design makes it easier to update the site with new data, saving the state time and money,” Yu said. Its advanced visualization techniques can be upgraded as new technologies develop, keeping INSIGHT – and Nebraska – on the cutting edge.
“It’s an excellent example of an interdisciplinary approach serving the state’s need for its citizens,” Tang said. “Individually, we could not have done it.”
NeDNR funded this project.