Water Data Collection Standards

Water data is collected across Australia by many organisations, often to meet the requirements of their own documented procedures and sometimes with reference to Australian or international standards or guidelines.

The Challenge

The variety of methodologies and practices employed in collecting, managing and transferring this data means that it is difficult for other data customers to determine the fitness for purpose of the data and any derived information. The Bureau's role as the national water information provider has highlighted the difficulties in producing national information from data collected in different ways and without reference to agreed or commonly applied standards and guidelines.

Approaches

The Water Information Standards Business Forum (the Forum) has endorsed a series of 10 National Industry Guidelines for hydrometric monitoring. These documents contain high level guidance and targets and the Bureau is promoting them for national adoption by organisations involved in water data collection. The guidelines are non-mandatory and represent industry recommended practice.

The regulations specify required formats in which water information must be given to the Bureau. Lead water agencies (Category A persons) are required to use Water Data Transfer Format (WDTF) for specified water information. Other organisations are encouraged to use WDTF where applicable. Over time, the regulations will require more Person Categories to provide their water information in WDTF. This will enable the Bureau to efficiently ingest and process the data and provide it to the community in a timely manner. It will significantly improve the quality and comparability of the data the Bureau publishes online through the Australian Water Resources Information System.

Water data providers can attach a data quality code to the data they send to the Bureau. This is a useful indicator of quality, however it is subjective, as each data provider must make their own determination of the appropriate quality flag. It is probably most useful for water information customers who are seeking more generalised water information. We realise that this is far from ideal and that further progress needs to be made.

The Forum is working in collaboration with the Australian Hydrographers Association to determine customer needs around data quality, as a step toward developing National Industry Guidelines for data quality. The Forum pages will contain more information as this activity progresses.

For data customers who need a more objective measure of data quality, the Bureau will, in the future, make the regulations metadata associated with a given observation, discoverable. This metadata will include information on adherence to procedures and standards when the data was collected. The utility of this information would be greatly enhanced if data providers agree to use common standards and guidelines.