The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) uses a watershed-based approach to assess surface water quality and define restoration and protection measures. Each of Minnesota’s 80 major watersheds is assessed intensively every ten years, based on a staggered schedule that addresses, on average, eight watersheds per year.
For each lake and river/stream found to have “impaired” water quality, the MPCA determines the steps needed to restore the water to meet applicable standards. For waterbodies now meeting their standards, protective measures are defined to ensure that water quality remains good.
This watershed management process is naturally data intensive. MPCA staff working on each phase of the ten-year cycle generate new data and draw on existing data from the preceding phases. Other organizations participating in the process contribute data and are informed about progress at every stage.
The MPCA’s provisions for electronic handling and sharing of all this data have not kept pace with the watershed management program’s rapid maturation during the last few years. For this reason, the agency started building interconnections or consolidating eight separate surface water data systems, as well as incorporating important data historically maintained only in spreadsheets or text files.
The Water Data Integration Project (WDIP) will result in staff being able to reduce the amount of time spent piecing information together from disparate sources to fulfill data requests. Currently only a fraction of the agency’s data can be accessed online by partner organizations and the general public. Integrating and increasing the amount of data made available on the Web will provide users with immediate, direct information access.
A phased improvement process
To increase the amount of data directly available to the public online, and to make internal operations more efficient, the MPCA started a multi-year project.
Completed to date
Phase 1, completed in 2009, performed two baseline tasks:
- a business process analysis of the watershed program
- conducted focus group discussions to identify needs and priorities for improved data management and access.
Phase 2, completed in 2010, addressed selected high-priority needs identified in Phase 1 and created a comprehensive technical vision and development plan for future improvements. Major outcomes of Phase 2:
- Validated enhanced waterbody inventory data.
- Expanded in detail, and moved to the “core” data systems of the agency, making the information accessible to all staff.
- Created web-based data retrieval tools enabling users to examine MPCA assessments, search for impairments, and retrieve restoration and protection project information.
Phase 3, completed in 2013, produced important tools for capturing key data points and tracking progress on water-related work.
- Streamlined water search functionality on the MPCA web site, providing better options for experienced water professionals as well as the general public
- Created new reporting tools for Total Maximum Daily Loads (TMDLs) and watershed program data
- Began building a new system for assessing water data
These activities were funded by a legislative appropriation from the Clean Water Fund
In Phase 4, and subsequent phases, the MPCA will continue to implement data integration and access improvements with the goal of creating a properly organized and efficient data structure underlying all current and future surface water-related systems.
Phase 4 outcomes. Work in Phase 4, to be completed June 2015, continues key development of water systems that support Watershed Restoration and Protection Strategies (WRAPS).
- Assessment system: The new Water Assessment and Listing Information System (WALIS) and new Consolidated Assessment Review Launchpad (CARL) will be completed for use on 2015 water assessments.
- WRAPS tracking and reporting: The watershed program will have enhanced reporting capabilities and accountability tools.
For more information about the Watershed Data Integration Project, email Glenn Skuta at firstname.lastname@example.org or 651-757-2730.