Mapping Simplifies the Sharing of Complex Water Information
By Susan Craig, Water Policy Analyst; Sarah Porter, Director; and Nick Carroll, Graduate Student/GIS Specialist - ASU Kyl Center for Water Policy
Water is Arizona's most precious natural resource. Few Arizonans understand how their water is supplied and regulated.
But most Arizonans want to know more about water administration. A 2019 Arizona State University (ASU) Morrison Institute for Public Policy poll found that 64 percent of Arizonans are interested in learning more about water management in the state. This interest is not limited to laypersons—we hear often from elected officials and other policy makers who want information about water resources but say that accessing it is not easy.
This is exactly why the Arizona State University Kyl Center for Water Policy at Morrison Institute created the recently launched Arizona Water Blueprint: to fill the gap between what people know about water in Arizona and what they want to know.
Using the Arizona Water Blueprint website (https://azwaterblueprint.asu.edu), average Arizonans—not just people who already have an understanding of Arizona's water issues—are able to get answers to their water questions in a few clicks.
Making the Arizona Water Blueprint Possible with ArcGIS
The Kyl Center decided early on that Esri's ArcGIS Online was the best platform for developing the Blueprint. In addition to being built with ArcGIS Online, ArcGIS Pro, and Web AppBuilder, the Arizona Water Blueprint employs Esri StoryMaps and ArcGIS Dashboards.
The Arizona Water Blueprint website has two main components: an interactive map and StoryMaps apps.
With the interactive map, people can freely explore Arizona's water landscape. It is rich with data about the state's water resources and infrastructure such as irrigation districts, water withdrawal wells, and regulatory regions. Other layers include critical habitats, water quality, tribal water rights, water providers, and political boundaries. With this interactive map, users can see and export water-related data specific to a particular geography.
Users can also visualize how different datasets are related. For instance, overlaying irrigation districts with land subsidence shows a correlation between these two features. ArcGIS allows all the data to be layered and explored with easy-to-deploy tools like Select, Download Data, and Swipe.
Our goal is to make water data easily accessible, understandable, and transparent. All the source information for the interactive map data is easy to find on the Blueprint site, so users can quickly tell where a particular data layer came from and how often it is updated.
ArcGIS uniquely offers the chance to integrate and share existing geospatial data. This allowed us to pull in data from a variety of sources. To date, the Blueprint contains 50 data layers. All but one of the data layers featured on the interactive map are from a public source.
The Kyl Center coordinated with local, state, and federal agencies to obtain the layers of data. Coordination with government entities has resulted in a beneficial feedback loop: the Kyl Center, by making agencies' data easily viewable by the public, can communicate back to the agencies potential data improvements that users suggest. Now that so much previously unavailable data is widely accessible, we are finding that municipalities and other expert parties have suggestions or corrections related to the data. The government agencies that maintain the data have been responsive to this feedback. Together, we're providing better data for water managers and policy makers to rely on in decision-making.
The StoryMaps apps, on the other hand, provide a guided learning experience on discrete water topics. We launched the site with four StoryMaps apps—Arizona's Water Story, Rural Water in Arizona, Water Augmentation Concepts, and Arizona's Stream Adjudications—and plan to add many more, based on user feedback as well as issues in the news.
We're going to continue updating both of the interactive map and the StoryMaps apps with the latest and most relevant information about water in Arizona. We hope they will help individuals better understand Arizona's water systems and support our governments as they plan for a more resilient water future. The Blueprint is meant to encourage holistic approaches to water planning and policy making.
Engaging Arizonans with the Blueprint
Over the course of more than a year, Kyl Center staff held 16 design workshops with more than 200 experts in water, land use, environmental conservation, and economic development. Input from these experts guided the Kyl Center's creation of the Arizona Water Blueprint. People who are invested in ensuring good water stewardship across Arizona came together to tell us what tools they need to help plan Arizona's water future. What we've done with the Blueprint is to pull those tools together in one place.
Since its debut in June, thousands of users have explored the Arizona Water Blueprint site. Here's some of the feedback the Kyl Center has received about the Arizona Water Blueprint:
- Karen Modesto, water resources specialist, Arizona Department of Water Resources: "It's the best comprehensive tool and use of data/data showcase to be available since the Water Atlas."
- Heide Kocsis, water resource specialist, Arizona State Land Department: "This will be helpful for the public because it is user-friendly, and the information is localized for [residents]. I think this is good for the public to have water attributes connected to land attributes."
Users were asked, "What aspects of the application will be most useful to you?" Responses include the following:
- Lauren Hixson, Westland Resources: "The overlays of cities, member lands/service areas, assured water supply designations, wells, recharge facilities, and water use all in one portal."
- Brett Fleck, water resources planning administrator, City of Peoria: "The ability to put layers over the top of each other. Many of these maps are available individually, but without GIS knowledge or software, it is hard to put them together."
The Arizona Water Blueprint was supported with funding and other assistance by the Salt River Project, Arizona Public Service Co., Tucson Water, and the City of Phoenix. A number of ASU graduate students who are studying geographic information systems were also integral to the success of the project.
We invite you to explore the Blueprint (https://azwaterblueprint.asu.edu) and share your thoughts or questions with us via email at KylCenter@asu.edu. We couldn't have assembled this water exploration tool without the help of the Esri community, and we're happy to help advise other Esri users as they make their ideas come to fruition.
The ability to put layers over the top of each other. Many of these maps are available individually, but without GIS knowledge or software, it is hard to put them together.