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West Hub Partners with CA State Water Resources Control Board for Our Water Data Future Event

By Rajan Tavathia and Kimberly Mann Bruch, San Diego Supercomputer Center Communications


The Our Water Data Future conference, which took place August 9-10 at the Scripps Seaside Forum, was attended by more than 60 researchers, professionals and students. Attendees participated in discussions about how data science and related applications can be utilized in water resource fields. The event also featured results from the California Water Data Challenge, a competition promoting the use of open water data to foster innovation and more informed decision-making.


Greg Gearhart, a deputy director for the California State Water Resources Control Board (SWRCB), welcomed participants to the Our Water Data Future event that was recently held at Scripps Seaside Forum at UC San Diego.


First-day opening remarks were led by Ashley Atkins, executive director for the West Big Data Innovation Hub, and Greg Gearhart, a deputy director for the California State Water Resources Control Board (SWRCB).


“We were honored to host a diverse group of innovators across the field at this conference,” Atkins said. “The event provided an opportunity for community-building in the space in support of advancements in data-intensive water solutions and strategies throughout the West and across the country.”


Experiential Water Data Learning was the theme for the first two presentations, which explored data projects that provided training opportunities for students. Understanding the Transboundary Groundwater Research Community via Network Analysis was showcased by San Diego Supercomputer Center Spatial Information Systems Laboratory Director Ilya Zaslavsky and New Mexico Water Resources Research Institute Associate Research Scientist Christine Tang, who is a doctorate student at Worcester Polytechnic Institute. SWRCB Engineer Hung Bui and UC Berkeley undergraduate student Andy Chen introduced RegBot, a language-oriented AI application aimed at presenting California’s state-level water regulations in a user-friendly format.


Presentations from the California Water Data Challenge were featured on the first day of the conference. The contest invited teams of one to six members to produce a data-driven water solution relevant to California. An awards ceremony took place on the second day. Participants were as follows:


UWDtap: Integrating California Urban Water Data

Ashley Vizek, Senior Data Scientist, FlowWest

Erin Cain, Data Scientist, FlowWest

Liz Stebbins, Data Scientist, FlowWest


Next Generation Cloud & Mobile Water Conservation Analytics and Compliance Management Platform

Amit Sharma, Founder and CEO, AQUATRAX


One4All: A Multimodal Open Source Data Tool for Microplastics in Drinking Water

Hannah Sherrod, Data Scientist, Moore Institute for Plastic Pollution Research

Shelly Moore, Executive Director, Moore Institute for Plastic Pollution Research

Win Cowger, Research Scientist, Moore Institute for Plastic Pollution Research


A Programmatic Approach to Regulatory Compliance Data and Logic

Jae Hong, Principal Software Developer, Vapyr Analytics

Sarmad Moalem, Product Manager and Data Scientist, Vapyr Analytics


Following the Water Data Challenge presentations, conference attendees had a chance to tour the nearby Ellen Browning Scripps Memorial Pier, which has been a part of Scripps since 1916 and is the home of one of the longest continuous ocean time series datasets in US history. In addition to the regular measurements made from this iconic pier, it serves as a teaching tool for STEM-related activities. The tour was led by Steve Diggs from the California Digital Libraries Scripps Institution of Oceanography.


Christine Kirkpatrick, West Hub principal investigator and Research Data Services director at SDSC, kicked off the second day of the conference with an introduction to SDSC and the connection between water resources and computing. “Our latest supercomputers run so hot that they must be liquid cooled. While we have increased electricity efficiency, we have become more reliant on water for all aspects of cooling equipment and our data center,” Kirkpatrick said. “Data centers around the world are using large amounts of municipal water supplies. We must work and innovate together to ensure computation can support research and inquiry without contributing to resource scarcity.”


SDSC’s Research Experience for High School Students Program was also represented at the conference. Several high school students from San Diego County were able to showcase their summer research posters on water data and discuss their topics with conference attendees. “This is the type of real-world experience that we try to give our summer students,” said Ange Mason, SDSC’s education manager. “We were very pleased that our students were able to participate in this conference and gain such valuable experience.”


The second day of the conference entailed an array of talks regarding “Water Data Perspectives” that focused on water data work and research both nationally and in California. They included:


Water Workforce Research Over the Years: An Overview with a Digital Deep-Dive

Miriam Hacker, Research Program Manager, The Water Research Foundation


Our Future Water Data Equi-System: Principles and Practices to Center Racial Equity with Our Water Data Work

Greg Gearheart, Deputy Director, SWRCB


The Future of California Water Rights Data: UPWARD and Cal-WATRS

Jacob Pasner, Research Data Specialist, SWRCB Control Board


You Can’t Learn About Water Without Getting Wet: The Secure Water Future Approach to

Developing the Next Generation of Water Leaders, Sarah Naumes, Managing Director, Secure Water Future, UC Merced


Following these talks, a group of scholars from the Data Science Experiential Pathways (DSXP) for Water Workforce Development Group provided an overview of three experiential data learning opportunities: Data Science Discovery (UC Berkeley), Data Science for Social Good (University of Washington), and DataJam (University of Pittsburgh and UC San Diego).


Later that afternoon, a panel showcased perspectives from water data innovators about their career paths and recommendations for developing the next generation of professionals. The moderator was Anna Holder, Environmental Scientist & Tribal Coordinator, Office of Information Management and Analysis, SWRCB. Panelists included Emily Read,

Chief, Web Communications Branch, USGS Water Mission Area; Erin Partlan, Environmental Scientist and Environmental Educator; Jacob Pasner, Research Data Specialist, SWRCB; Katie Hoeberling, Director of Policy Initiatives, Open Environmental Data Project; and Win Cowger,

Research Scientist, Moore Institute for Plastic Pollution Research.


Closing remarks were given by E. Joaquin Esquivel, chair of the State Water Board. “Our decision making at the board hinges on informed public input and trust in our process, and the availability of open water data hugely contributes to both,” Esquivel said. “Events like this one not only provide future water workforces with valuable skills and exposure, but they empower people to fully engage with us and ensure that transparency, equity and public participation form the foundation for all of our work.”

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