The Utah Division of Water Resources recently announced that Utahns can now easily access water use data through a new interactive data portal.
Utah’s Open Water Data portal allows Utahns to zoom and click an area of interest on an interactive map, resulting in a pop up that shows the water use in that area. Citizens can also download the underlying data. The tool improves water data accessibility and transparency. It can be accessed at: www.Water.Utah.Gov/OpenData.html.
“We wanted to present the water use data in a way that is accessible and understandable. This tool allows anyone to easily find, explore and download this important information,” said Aaron Austin, Senior GIS Analyst for the Division.
The portal was released in conjunction with a report that contains an analysis of residential, institutional, commercial and industrial water use data gathered by the Utah Division of Water Rights for the 2015 water year: https://water.utah.gov/2015WaterData.pdf. The analysis reflects updated and improved methodology based on recommendations from a 2015 Legislative Audit, 2017 Legislative follow up Audit and a 2018 third party analysis of the division’s processes.
“We are excited about the methodology accuracy and other improvements this data release represents. A lot of people worked very hard on this,” Rachel Shilton, the division’s River Basin Planning Section Manager, said.
While the improvements are encouraging, these changes make comparing the 2015 numbers to past water use dataproblematic due to the significant methodology differences. Changes in recommended secondary water use estimate inputs, as well as the transfer of second homes from the commercial category to the residential category, are examples of updates that impact categorical or total use estimates. As a result, the division will use the 2015 data as the new baseline for comparison and planning moving forward.
Likewise, comparisons from region to region within Utah are problematic due to differences in climate, number of vacation homes and other factors. Comparisons between Utah’s water use numbers and data from other states have little value given there is no nationally consistent methodology standard for analyzing and reporting water use numbers.
Administrative processes were changed in 2016 to ensure community water system data corrections are updated in the Utah Division of Water Rights’ database and website; however, these updated processes did not occur for the 2015 data. As a result, the quality checked data released on Tuesday will often differ from what is reflected on the Utah Division of Water Rights’ website. That said, the data released Tuesday underwent both legislative auditor and third-party review, and the division is confident that it is both reflective of regional water use and useful for planning purposes.
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