Monday, December 12, 2011

Groundwater On Times Square

OK, so the Heads UP folks have conducted a visualization contest for groundwater decline issues - to be aired on world water day (March 22, 2012) in Times Square, NYC.  The call for entries asked that people take actual USGS groundwater data sets and render that data in visually striking and creative ways.  The winner is to have his or her creation splashed onto the Nasdaq and Rueters big screens in Times Square on world water day.  Is this all aimed at driving home the message of groundwater declines worldwide or to create interest/concern/fear/outrage and hence public reaction?

The winner was announced on December 7 and he is Richard Vijgen, an information designer from the Netherlands.  His renderings are definitely cool (you can see them here) but just how practical they will be and how well they will express the world's groundwater conditions remains to be seen.  They are 30 seconds each in length, to cover what appears to be a tremendous amount of data.  They go by so fast I can't glean anything more than since 1911 the groundwater in many parts of the world has declined to some degree or another.  I do get a sense of an accelerated decline rate in some places, but it doesn't really sink in because I can't relate the various bars to any specific world location.  You just can't see the lables used on the video.  Now maybe if I was in Times Square... (hint, hint)

Call me old fashioned, but I'd rather just see the data presented as a simple line graph over time by location.  I know, BORING!!!  But I do think a message will be sent that may translate into at least increased public awareness.  But everyone should know, there are entities - like my very small groundwater management district - that are working on these problems every day of the year.  Had we been provided part of the money used to conduct this contest I guarantee you our problem would be a little less onerous than yesterday.

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