Droughts are an issue that serve as a constant struggle for farmers, particularly those who farm in drier regions of the country. Without water, farmers are unable to produce a livelihood from their land, threatening the very core of their business. The lack of predictability for a reliable source of irrigation leaves many in a constant state of anxiety, unsure of how to proceed with their operations. This struggle is not becoming any simpler as natural resource challenges and agricultural production both need water. There have historically been major frustrations surrounding the data available to help decision-making. Users rely on a variety of sources to find the information they need, but the same data is not being used by all parties to manage their decisions.
In 2012, HEI began a pilot research project in the Klamath Basin of California and Oregon, an area long held under the microscope for water and resource issues. Along with partners from the NRCS National Water and Climate Center, the National Weather Service California Nevada River Forecast Center, and Klamath County, HEI was awarded a National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) grant to study the issue further.
This project studied how data is used for vital decisions, using feedback and information from stakeholders throughout the area. This key information formed a series of decision timelines, each of which identified the specific data critical to each stakeholder group to make decisions in their day-to-day business. This helped to form a framework to identify resource needs and at what point in the water year vital decisions are made.
Using the concept of decision timelines, HEI began to conceptualize a web application designed to cull climate, water, and water supply forecast data from many disparate sources into one complete set of critical data. Known as the Water Supply Decision Dashboard
, the application provides one reliable, common source of information for decision-makers. Information is presented in an easy-to-understand way for a variety of different users, so a scientific background is not a prerequisite to understanding key data.
HEI is currently working with a client in Colorado to program the concept into full functionality. The final web project will have broad application across the country to address resource supply issues and reduce frustrations with decision-making.