The API Briefing: EPA’s Water Quality Portal API Merges Three Data Streams

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Access to clean water is fast becoming a vital issue in the 21st century. Changing climate patterns are drying up aquifers and limiting the amount of water runoff from thawing snow packs. Drought conditions in California are effecting hydroelectric production while dry conditions in the West have increased the frequency and harmful effects of forest fire. Monitoring and mapping water conditions across the U.S. is a vital government service. Thanks to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)’s Water Quality Portal API, developers can create apps to help the public, scientists, and local governments track access and quality of local water sources.

The EPA’s Water Quality Portal (WQP) is a cooperative effort between the EPA, the United States Geological Survey, and the National Water Quality Monitoring Council. These three organizations contribute data from their historical and current information on over 1.5 million U.S. sites. The WQP is a great example of how multiple organizations can use a single API to allow access to their different data sources. Examine the documentation and you can see how a single REST request can pull data from one or all of the organizations’ sources.

The WQP API can be queried by either longitude/latitude or Federal Information Processing Standards (FIPS) geographical codes for mapping applications. Consult the User Guide to interpret the other reported sampling data. Output can be specified as an XML file, Excel file, text file, or Keyhole Markup Language (KML) file.

The WQP is a great API because it fulfills a vital public service and demonstrates how organizations can combine data assets into a single, easily-accessible API portal. Access to clean water is an important issue which should spawn many great public service apps.*API – Application Programming Interface. How software programs and databases share data and functions with each other. Check out APIs in Government for more information. Each week in “The API Briefing,” I will showcase government APIs and the latest API news and trends. Visit this blog every week to learn how government APIs are transforming government and improving government services for the American people. If you have ideas for a topic or have questions about APIs, please contact me via email.

Dr. William A. Brantley, PMP, is a Program Analyst, in Forecasting and Methods at the U.S. Office of Personnel Management (OPM). You can find out more about his work in this space at BillBrantley.com.

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