USGS meshes water data

Compiling water data from a variety of databases into a single, easy-to-use resource was once a drip, drip, drip process for database managers at the Wisconsin District Office of the U.S. Geological Survey's Water Resources Division.

It previously took up to a day or more to compile the data into a single database for the office's customers, which include state and local governments and the Environmental Protection Agency. Sometimes the system would simply crash under the weight of up to 3 million records.

But the process has been improved with the use of Informatica Corp.'s PowerMart data integration tool, according to USGS officials. Since the office began using the system in February, database managers have been able to compile data quickly and with fewer headaches, said Bill Selbig, a USGS hydrologist.

"It gives us the ability to process a large number of datasets in a small amount of time," Selbig said.

And for Informatica, which opened a federal sales office in July, the USGS project is an important milestone.

"We consider the government the No. 1 marketplace in the world, and this is a huge opportunity to get a stake in the ground as well as move forward with USGS," said Geoff Stilley, Informatica's director of federal sales and marketing.

USGS maintains a number of databases containing water data collected mainly by on-site gauges and uploaded to the agency. The disparate databases include those storing water-surface data, water-quality data and groundwater data. PowerMart helps the agency compile information from all of them.

"Our objective is to get all those legacy sources and put it into one cohesive Oracle [Corp.] database," said Henry House, director of the office's database application team. "[PowerMart] meshes pretty well with Oracle, so we're happy with it."

Stilley said government agencies have begun focusing on ways to overcome stovepipe systems.

"Ninety-five percent of [agencies'] databases can't communicate with each other," Stilley said.


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