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Nebraska DNR Facilitates Cross-Department Collaboration with Holistic Water Management System

Nebraska City, NE 68410, USA

At a Glance

With an average of 100+ million acre feet of rainfall and water flowing in and out of Nebraska, the Nebraska Department of Natural Resources (NeDNR) plays the vital role of monitoring the state’s water quality. Having actionable, accessible data became essential for community outreach.

Problem Addressed

Leading the nation in irrigated acres, Nebraska has great regional disparities in precipitation, large rivers and permeable sandy soil, leading to a strong supply of groundwater. This places a great importance on collaboration between the state’s various water organizations and NeDNR. With different stakeholders holding ownership rights of much of the state’s water, collaborative, up-to-date measurements are necessary for accountability.

Nebraska’s stream gaging program has 250 sites that include continuous stream and reservoir gages, partial year gages, canal gages, canal return flow gages, and various spot measurements, representing enormous amounts of data. The core network consists of approximately 110 continuous stream gages and 120 canal gages. With extreme flooding events over the last few years, it is vital that the data collected by NeDNR be accurate, reliable and timely.

In the early 2000’s, NeDNR was running a state-of-the-art database for its time that was fully meeting their needs. Migration to a new domain, security improvements and a loss of in-house IT and local PC support changed all of that rendered their system ineffectual, creating the need for modernization. Unfortunately, in the platform transition process, they ran into complications.

The first new platform shut off every Friday between 5 and 6 pm, creating a problem that had to be solved manually by the team at each occurrence. The next platform ran into a similar issue, failing a total of 75 times in 2018. The department knew it was time for a change.

Nebraska Department of Natural Resources (NeDNR) used/is using Aquarius to address this/these challenge(s).

Solution(s) Used

After reaching out to neighboring states and the USGS Water Science Center, Jeremy Gehle, Head of Water Administration for Nebraska Department of Natural Resources, decided to switch to Aquarius Software, which is used by water monitoring agencies around the world to acquire, process, model and publish information in real-time.

The Aquarius team performed a business analysis with NeDNR’s staff to map the data migration and better understand their data workflows. Through the process, they uncovered several areas for improvement in their data management workflows. The modern enterprise architecture automated some former manual processes and simplified data computation steps.

“We appreciated the support in setting it up with our network and were pleased with the level of continuity and logging of queries to overcome issues. We felt a strong level of technical guidance from Aquatic Informatics that made the transition easier than we expected,” said Gehle.

The new software makes it easy to integrate, import, and enter data quickly and securely while storing all information in one central place, streamlining management and reporting. The program also automates the quality assurance of data with tools for error detection, data cleaning, data flagging, and automatic bias corrections.

The reliability and streamlining of processes with the new software have enabled NeDNR to get all their records up to date when they were often months behind. With so much data collection on a daily basis, managing this information can be an enormous task without effective tools. “At one point in time, we had a five-year backlog of hydrographic reports for some of our stations. Aquarius is user-friendly which makes it easier for our field hydrologists to stay on top of data entries, consequently, we are now completely up to date on reporting. By keeping on top of daily data, our hydrologists are more likely to note any action items that need to be addressed, meaning we can do a better job,” said Williams.

As the trend moves towards cloud-native applications for the obvious advantages of accessibility and security, the newer software is designed to streamline integration across departments for holistic management of all water resources. With such a rich and diverse hydrological landscape and heavy reliance on their data and services by stakeholders, NeDNR knows it’s imperative to have a reliable state-of-the-art data management platform. By removing menial data entry and downtime, the hydrologists and other skilled workers can now do more community outreach and analysis for new and improved decision-making to better serve their stakeholders.

Outcomes

  1. Automated once manual data entry and simplified data computation, creating actionable insights and data
  2. With improved data management workflows, the department is more on top of all water reporting
  3. Automated data quality checks, now gives NeDNR assurance of the reliability of their data.
  4. All of NeDNR’s data is now securely stored in one reliable easy to use, and easy to access platform.
  5. Mission critical data collected by NeDNR is accurate, reliable, timely, and actionable.

Lessons Learned

  1. Technical support during software migration is critical to a successful outcome.
  2. Cloud native applications are designed to streamline data integration across departments that will result in a holistic view of all of Nebraska’s water resources.
  3. Centralized data make data easier to find and spend more time in previously under resourced areas, like community outreach and deeper analysis for new discoveries of areas to improve upon.

Something Unique

When it comes to hydrology, Nebraska has it all – great regional disparities in precipitation, large rivers and permeable sandy soil making for a good supply of groundwater. Nebraska is also a large agricultural state and leads the nation in irrigated acres. NeDNR works in partnership with many other organizations, including several irrigation districts in sharing and receiving data. Turning this information into timely, reliable insights is where the rubber hits the road.

Who Should Consider?

Water monitoring agencies and other organizations that monitor and analyze the the entire water cycle.

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