Lizard experience, first sessions

Tags: lizard, nelenschuurmans

This is the first set of three presentations on the annual Lizard day. (Lizard is the water information system I’m working on, so I volunteered to make English summaries of the talks.)

Drinking water information - Roelof Kruize

Roelof Kruize is chairman of waternet, Amsterdams’ water company, and board member of the Dutch association of drinking water companies (wevin).

Their customers ask for information about their company and their water processes. In a sense, water is a commodity: open the tap and the water flows. And you feel safe behind the dike. But when the water level rises, questions boil up. And sometimes there’s a newspaper article asking questions about drinking water quality. And where can you swim? Where is it safe? When can I pump up water to spray my agricutural land?

Lots of questions. They have many of the answers in the information they have. Waternet simply wants to make their information publicly available. There are some privacy concerns, though: from someone’s waste water you can deduct whether they’re home or whether they’re pregnant, even.

Some of the information they provide now and what they’re working on:

  • Groundwater levels: http://gis.nlkm.nl/kaarten/peilbuizen.html
  • An app for all those boats going trough the Amsterdam canals. Information so that they can avoid busy areas and so that they can find a pub.
  • http://www.urinwaar.nl for finding public toilets in Amsterdam.
  • Water incidents forecasts.
  • Flood forecasts (with 3di) including simulations so that you can look beforehand, for instance, which roads will still be available for the rescue services.

Sharing information is very important. Waternet likes open data. Something to keep an eye on: quality and standardization (though standardization shouldn’t take too long!).

Question: if you make information public, aren’t you afraid that others can detect errors made by Waternet? Answer: not afraid. It will become known anyway, so you can better be proactive and simply do your best.

Urban water in the city of Almere - Ed Anker

Ed Anker is a wethouder (main municipal executive, just below the mayor) of Almere, a city in the Netherlands.

Recently, he didn’t even know about Lizard. But he’s wildly enthousiastic now. A revolutionary system, he says. One of the reasons is that Almere is below sea level. 200000 people with another 150000 on the way. That keeps water high on their municipal agenda!

When foreign visitors stand on the dike and look at the water on one side and the city, lower, on the other side they’re still flabbergasted.

Now on to Lizard. And this Lizard experience day. Ed Anker thinks data should be open. But that’s scary. You don’t know what will happen with your open data! What will “they” do with it? You don’t know. You cannot know. And that’s scary for politicians!

He got a presentation on Lizard at Almere before giving this talk. Wow! All the pumps’ water quantities. The full sewer system, visible in the webbrowser. Water levels. Quality. And more. Wow.

Information should not just lie around. It should be used. If you’re scared of open data, your data will just lay dormant. It has no use that way. Your information should be valuable.

So: make your data open.

Lizard is very important for Almere. All the information on the all-important water subject is in there. Combined.

At the end he showed a nice video of all the data in Almere’s Lizard site. Quite impressive! A happy Lizard user!

Dike data service center - Henk van ’t Land

Henk van ’t Land is chairman of the Dutch IJkdijk foundation that strives toward innovative dike monitoring.

Sharing data is also the motto for the IJkdijk foundation. The core question is: do you want to share data? Especially when cooperationg with lots of partners. And cooperation is what happens in their foundation.

The start of the foundation was a dike at Wilnis that collapsed unexpectedly because it was too dry. Why didn’t anyone know? So they’re now experimenting with putting lots of sensors in dikes. That gives you lots of data, which needs to be turned into information and knowledge.

Lots of data? The buzzword on the internet for that is big data now. Live measurement data, historical data. Soil layers. Municipality borders. Safety region borders. River water levels. Etc. And calculations on that data, for instance forecasts but also comparisons of your dikes with other water boards’ dikes.

They had Fugro and Nelen&Schuurmans build it and called it the dike data service center DDSC. The DDSC isn’t a goal in itself, it supports existing processes. And by getting nice, detailed information you can save yourself a lot of money. And it provides wonderful information in case of calamities.

With big data like this, you start to think and act differently about your dikes.

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My name is Reinout van Rees and I work a lot with Python (programming language) and Django (website framework). I live in The Netherlands and I'm happily married to Annie van Rees-Kooiman.

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