SUNSPOTS WERE OBSERVED by telescope as early as the 1600s. Astronomer Galileo Galilei was the first to document the location of these solar specks by making ink marks directly onto paper. While maintaining the precise image plane, he translated complex data points into an accessible and easily read format.
Galileo’s sunspot charts were contested during the early 1600s because they conflicted with the general belief that celestial bodies were perfect, without blemish. The astronomer, therefore, proceeded to convert empirical observation into focused evidence by pinpointing the precise location of these sites on a rotating sun from a rotating earth.
As observations by other scientists were collected and diagrammed, with the data indexed on time, the insightful layers enhanced the dimensionality of the information. Eventually, these early ink-marks made the existence of sunspots abundantly clear.
“The world is complex, dynamic, multidimensional; the paper is static, flat. How are we to represent the rich visual world of experience and measurement on mere flatland?” asks Edward Tufte in his landmark book Envisioning Information. From Galileo’s sunspot charts to elaborate GIS maps, technological diagrams, and displays of a smart city’s operational analytics, throughout the millennia, mankind has sought to convert data points into actionable information.
Translating data into useful strategy is an increasingly important topic throughout the water industry. And data is increasingly accessible. It’s in front of us on mobile devices and displayed in app dashboards, where it integrates information streams from across our utilities, creating rich data layers and consequentially, heightened operational awareness.
In this issue of Water Efficiency magazine, we honor the diverse ways that water organizations are finding to interpret data and make it usable. In the following pages, we invite you to join us in exploring methods of employing data to optimize water conveyance systems, plant operations, water conservation efforts, and energy efficiency.
The ability to curate and analyze data is changing the paradigm and leading to enhanced operations for water agencies across the country. In “Accessibility and Analysis,” we discuss the fact that utilities have access to more data than ever before. Today’s data management platforms not only make information accessible to personnel across the utility on user-friendly mobile interfaces, but they are also increasingly customizable, allowing utilities to target specific areas and use granular insights to inform decision making.
In “Efficiencies at the Water-Energy Nexus,” we see the benefit of combining data sets from across organizations and of using that data to find opportunities for energy conservation. From LED lighting at pump stations and variable frequency drives to diverse generation portfolios supported by solar power, wind power, biomass, pumped hydro, and energy storage, water agencies across the country are capitalizing on these energy efficiency opportunities and reaping the benefits.
In “Looking for Leaks,” we identify key strategies, technologies, and techniques for detecting and locating water loss. We observe ways in which today’s mobile technology, supported by sensors, meters, ground microphones, and loggers, facilitates listening in the field and data mapping. We look at improvements in asset management made possible by the availability of on-demand historical analyses displayed on mobile apps and tablets in the field.
Today, as in Galileo’s time, data’s usability is considered its highest virtue. Mobile access, easy user interfaces, and aggregated data layers are making information increasingly accessible and enhancing the operational efficiency of our water systems. With numbers, maps, and graphics, these digital tools are offering deeper, multidimensional insights. How does your organization use data to optimize its operations?