New Waves August 2009

Breaking news about water resources research and education in Texas

TWRI grant recipient helps make Texas water data easily accessible

Eric Hersh, a doctoral student at the University of Texas at Austin, worked with his advising professor Dr. David Maidment to develop an information system to facilitate the public discovery, acquisition, and sharing of data relevant to environmental flows. The information system makes water data from fields such as hydrology and hydraulics, water quality, climatology, geomorphology and physical processes, and biology, available in a consistent and accessible manner, all in one place.

The project was supported for the 2008-2009 academic year with a $5,000 Texas Water Resources Institute (TWRI) grant provided by the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) as part of the National Institutes for Water Research annual research program. TWRI is the designated institute for water resources research in Texas.

The data model resulting from Hersh’s efforts brings together geospatial, physical, chemical, and biological data along with supporting documents and base maps from federal, state, academic, river basin, and local sources. The data is available at Working with the Texas Natural Resources Information System, the state’s digital data agency, a web-based map viewer was also created at to allow the public access to data relevant to their interests and needs.

Following the inception of Senate bills 2 and 3, the issue of environmental flows has become increasingly relevant in Texas. Environmental flows work involves developing standards for the state’s river basin and bay systems, with the goal of supporting sound ecological environments.  Hersh said he hopes that the information system will help the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality and involved scientists and stakeholders establish flow requirements in a systematic manner.

In another part of the research, Hersh and Maidment are developing a desktop methodology, called BioDesktop, which seeks to establish linkage between environmental flows and habitats, and to evaluate environmental flow needs.

“In the long-term, I desire my studies and research to serve as a foundation for a career dedicated to ensuring the availability, safety, and sustainability of water for generations to come,” Hersh said.

For more information on Hersh’s research, visit TWRI’s USGS research grants Web page.

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