Graphic design work to illustrate the water data display function. © DavidArts - Fotolia / © BRGM - François Michel

New standards issued for water information

Standardisation is essential in the geosciences to facilitate exchanges and sharing of information between experts. This is particularly important in the case of water information, which involves many different players from different organisations. The process has been boosted by the "Orléans Resolution" and its adoption of a new family of standards.

To geoscience researchers, but also  to the  wider  community of operational players in the water sector for example, adopting and developing data exchange standards is crucial. Professionals in the  water sector not  only  have very different functions, but are also widely scattered  across different  agencies (national water agencies, international commissions, research organisations, etc.). It is essential for these different organisations to be able to exchange data easily,  especially on  hydrology and  meteorology. But this demands common protocols and effective system and data interoperability - and there is a lot of work to be done!

The BRGM working group during the 6th "Hydrology Domain" workshop in September 2015. © BRGM

The BRGM working group during the 6th "Hydrology Domain" workshop in September 2015. © BRGM

Water data: too much time spent locating the right information

Work on standardising international exchanges of information in the geosciences, in which the BRGM has  a leading role, began some time ago. And yet, there are still many problems with exchanging water data and  system interoperability: when the data presented and  exchanged are too  heterogeneous, consistency is a problem.

From one area of competence to another, it has been  estimated that people spend roughly 30% of their time just  to locate  and understand the information! This obviously causes considerable complications in specific  transboundary cases where organisations in different countries have  to share information, for example to predict floods and water  table levels.

Taking piezometric measurements.© BRGM

Taking piezometric measurements. © BRGM

The "Orléans Resolution": a significant step forward

2015 saw a significant step forward on the standardisation of water data. The "Orléans Resolution" was the highlight of the Open Geospatial Consortium's 6th "Hydrology Domain Working Group"  (HDWG) workshop, organised by the  BRGM on  20 and  24 September 2015. The Open  Geospatial Consortium (OGC) issues international and  open standards for geographical information  and  data processing. These  standards are used,  for example, in online applications such as Google  Earth, Google  Maps and  InfoTerre, and  recommended by the  INSPIRE Directive and even the Obama administration.

The annual HDWG workshop is an opportunity for international experts from different backgrounds to work together, exchange experiences, discuss results and  advances and  develop appropriate standards for exchanges of water data and modelling. The "Orléans Resolution" concludes as follows:  "The hydrology committee of  the  WMO (World Meteorological Organisation) recognises that the standards prepared or incubated by the Hydro Domain Working Group  have  reached a sufficient stage  of maturity to be applied to the WHOS information system of the WMO".

The HDWG itself has recommended the creation of an online portal for the WMO's hydro-information system to facilitate access to the water data services provided by national hydrological agencies, in line with OGC standards.

The API family of standards

In practice, a family of six standards was adopted, for hydrological measurement series, hydrogeological resources, rating curves, water quality, exchanges of observations via API and  Internet queries. An Application Programming Interface (API) is a standardised set of semantic and  associated tools that enable developers to create software through simple and direct uses of other software services.

The BRGM's teams played a central part in developing the first two standards in the family: co-writing the data  models, running test  cases and  iterative tests with real data, etc. The BRGM thus established a data structure describing the  rules for structuring the information, and  deployed implementation tools in XML.

These standards for water  data  are likely to be extended to environmental data.

Water table levels are available for downloading at © BRGM

Water table levels are available for downloading at © BRGM

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