The NWIS Database
Dwain Curtis talks about the benefits of the National Water Information System (NWIS) database.
Interviewee: Dwain Curtis, NWIS database manager, Nebraska WSC
Interviewer: Rachael Seravalli, Information Asst., Nebraska WSC
RS: Welcome to the first episode of Nebraskast, where we talk with real USGS scientists about the important water resources work they are doing all over Nebraska. My name is Rachael Seravalli. I'm with the USGS Nebraska Water Science Center. Today is Dec. 4, 2008 and we're talking with Dwain Curtis who is in charge of maintaining our NWIS database for Nebraska. Dwain, what does NWIS stand for and what does it do?
DC: NWIS is an acronym for the National Water Information System and that is a database, in fact, it's a relational database, that we maintain of ever piece of data we collect whether it's a gage height, water level, or a piece of water-quality information. We store this in this database and then we process it and then we re-release it back to the NWISWeb.
RS: Where does the data come from? How is it collected?
DC: The data is collected by our scientists and our hydrographers. They might collect a water level from a ground-water recorder or they will collect stage from a river and process it to determine discharge. And they will also take water samples and analyze for different constituents and in turn take those results and store them.
RS: When the data becomes available, how does a person then access that data?
DC: There is a Web interface and when they connect to that, they have a choice at the main page. There's a broad overview at the national level and then you can also drill down to the state level. At that point, you can determine if you want to retrieve ground-water levels, discharge values, or water quality.
RS: So this is very basic water information it sounds like. How is that information then used?
DC: Different agencies use it besides ourselves. The National Weather Service, NOAA, helps to predict their flood forecasting. Natural resources districts will use the data to help manage their ground-water programs. And other state agencies such as the Game and Parks Commission will use that data to enhance their studies.
RS: And what about the public? What interest would they have in looking at some of the data that USGS is collecting?
DC: There's several groups. In fact, we have one group in Nebraska, they're a group of canoeists, and they like to look at the river stage to see whether it's up or if it's down and figure out if they can have a canoeing experience or not. Fishermen call me all the time and they check the levels and they can determine the best place to go fishing.
RS: And then what about people who are interested in learning more about how to access the online data? Do you conduct any sort of training sessions that someone could inquire directly to you or our director, Bob Swanson, about setting something like that up?
DC: Absolutely, Rachael. We have conducted training in the past for the natural resources districts of Nebraska and then we've also had many outreach opportunities at different conferences. But in general they can contact our water science center and get all the information they need, and I'd be happy to help them.
RS: And do you know just off the top of your head here what the link is to get to that basic NWIS page?
DC: Yes, Rachael. Our page is http://ne.water.usgs.gov.
RS: And from there they can find the main NWIS page?
DC: That's correct. There's a pick list they can choose from and they can go to the entire country or any other state in the union if they prefer.
RS: Well thank you for taking the time to talk to us.
DC: No problem, Rachael. Thank you.