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Lower Mississippi-Gulf Water Science Center -- Louisiana

Picture of USGS employee in a Louisiana swamp.
Annual Water Data Reports: A New Look – 20 March 2008

For many years, the annual water data report was available only in book form. It was a convenient, if costly, way to provide the water data we collect to the public. It was easy to use, portable, and very popular, but if you didn't have the book, you didn't have the data. Putting the reports online a few years ago solved the availability problem, but it introduced a huge usability problem—until now.

When the USGS made online verisions of the annual water data report available and stopped printing the hard copy, we essentially traded one set of problems for another. While this decision resulted in a considerable cost savings and made the data available to everyone in the world, the online version proved to be far more difficult to use than its predecessor. The files were large and unwieldy, and with no good way to quickly look up items of interest, it was clear that simply reproducing the printed format in an online form was not adequate. With this in mind, the USGS set about the task of reinventing the format of the annual water data report to fit the online medium so that we could take full advantage of the new capabilities that the Internet offers while retaining much of the convenience of the old printed copy. The 2006 Annual Water Data Report is the first year in the series to be offered in this new format.

The new format is actually a set of web pages that help users quickly find specific information in the report through either form-based queries or through a GIS map interface. The form-based query web pages are fast and efficient, and permit very rapid searches by station number, state and county, or hydrologic unit. Searches by station number permit wildcards, allowing searches on partial station numbers, and the result is a simple sorted list of sites. Search results from queries by state/county or hydrologic code are organized into three categories: climatological sites, ground-water sites, and surface-water sites. In every case, the resulting list has clickable station numbers that provide direct access to an Adobe Acrobat (.pdf) file for that particular site.

The GIS map interface provides searches by drawing boxes on a map to delineate the search area. Different markers are displayed on the resulting map showing the location and type of each site in the annual water data report that are found in the area chosen. Switching to information mode and selecting a site will identify the site and provide a link that will provide access to the Adobe Acrobat file for that particular site. This interface is a quite a bit more challenging to master, and it is a great deal slower than the form-based queries, but it allows searches of areas without having to know which sites are actually located there, and it is not restricted by political or hydrologic boundaries.

There are also links to a documentation web page and to a related information and publications web page. The documentation web page provides information and explanations about the data found in the publication, and how to understand and interpret the organization of the document. The related information and publications web page provides links to other USGS websites that have related data or publications.

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