Towards a new standard for sharing hydrological data

Resolution 25, adopted in May 1999 by the Thirteenth World Meteorological Congress, commits WMO Members to broaden and enhance, whenever possible, the free and unrestricted international exchange of hydrological data and products.

This engagement is an important contribution to disaster risk reduction, human safety and well-being, and shared socio-economic benefits. In 2005, a Global Climate Observing System (GCOS) report identified standards as a key problem in data exchange in global hydrological and atmospheric networks. Thus, in 2009, WMO and the Open Geospatial Consortium (OGC) jointly formed a Hydrology Domain Working Group (HDWG) to address this issue.

In 2012 the OGC adopted WaterML 2.0: Part 1- Time Series as an official standard. Encoded in eXtensible Markup Language (XML) and based on existing OGC standards, WaterML 2.0 provides an interoperable hydrological exchange format that may be used to address a wide range of user needs. These include the exchange of data relating to:

  • In situ observations at hydrological (gauges, reservoirs) or climatological stations;
  • Forecast products (probabilistic or deterministic time series) at forecast locations;
  • Emergency or operator-oriented alerts (of threshold exceedance) and reports;
  • Time series of planned intake and release/discharge; and
  • Groundwater observations of the water level within wells. Using WaterML 2.0, it is possible to link together local, national, regional and global water information sources as part of global water information networks. The availability of such a format will also contribute to the implementation of the WMO Information System (WIS).

The 2012 WMO Commission for Hydrology (CHy) recommended that WMO Members test, through pilot projects during 2013-2016, the use of WaterML 2.0 for the exchange of hydrological data with a view of its adoption as a joint WMO/ISO standard. The Commission also noted the importance of WaterML 2.0 and other emerging OGC standards for improving service delivery in key areas, including the WMO World Hydrological Cycle Observing System (WHYCOS) and the WMO Flood Forecasting Initiative.

The Commission is interested in engaging with projects that are using WaterML 2.0, particularly within developing countries, for the exchange of hydrological data at the global, national or state/provincial levels. Interested organizations are invited to complete WMO CHy WaterML 2.0 survey.

By Tony Boston, Bureau of Meteorology, Australia and David Maidment, University of Texas at Austin, USA.

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