SIERRA VISTA — The Upper San Pedro Partnership (USPP) will begin work on a web portal to provide researchers and the public with real-time hydrological data on the San Pedro River, thanks to a $99,000 grant.

The Bureau of Reclamation (BOR) selected 19 projects across the west totaling $3.5 million in WaterSMART Applied Science Grants to develop tools and information that will inform and support water-management decisions, according to a press release from Peter Soeth, spokesperson for BOR.

BOR Commissioner Brenda Burman stated, “Water managers need the most updated information to ensure they are making the best water management decisions. Applied science grants fund tool development and studies that help make western water more reliable.”

The BOR grant is highly competitive, said Holly Richter, a hydrologist with The Nature Conservancy (TNC), in a phone interview. She credits the grant award to the diverse membership of the USPP and its long history of gathering data.

Talks have been ongoing among the USPP consortium of 20 local jurisdictions, state and federal agencies and private organizations for more than two years on the importance of having this data available and understandable to members, researchers and the public in a central location on the web, Richter explained.

The web portal will have three main functions:

• To provide readily accessible, geospatially accessed, hydrologic information through the synthesis of raw hydrologic data sets and include direct access to the raw data sets via direct web links.

• To provide data visualization tools that allow users to graphically view single data sets, side–by–side data–set comparisons, data overlays and basic statistical analyses keyed to a map interface.

• To ensure the timely availability of Sierra Vista Subwatershed and Upper San Pedro Basin monitoring data.

The information gathered will be used by hydrologists to make decisions about water use, for natural resource management, residential and commercial development activities and water conservation needs and strategies. This allows researchers to increase understanding of the natural system and provide the general public a way to better understand how the hydrologic system works and why they might be seeing various natural processes in action.

“While these data exist and are technically publicly available, there is currently no one simple way for users to easily access them or to necessarily make sense of them,” explained Richter. “This will be designed to meet those needs.”

The first phase of the two–year project will include public workshops expected to begin this fall.

Richter said, “Hydrology can be complicated, especially with the charts and graphs. So the more useful the data, the more understandable it will be and the most meaningful. We have so much information to draw from.”

In the past, USPP members and the public relied on Bruce Gungle, a U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) hydrologist, for the annual 321 Report to Congress on the state of the river. He has acted as the curator of all the data collected, Richter noted. Now that the report is no longer required, the web portal, when completed, will act as the repository for all hydrological information.

The public workshops will be announced in the near future and Richter hopes they will be well attended.

“Keep your heads up and your eyes open,” she recommended.

The USPP was formed in 1998 to coordinate and cooperate in the identification, development and utilization of technical information gathered to assist in meeting water needs in the Upper San Pedro basin, to preserve the San Pedro Riparian National Conservation Area (SPRNCA) and ensure the long–term viability of Fort Huachuca.

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