Circle of Blue and Institute for Globally Transformative Technologies working on exploring the nexus of water, food, energy

Lake Powell, Utah, one of many lakes in the inner-mountain West seeing drastic declines in water levels over the last decade. Photo Credit: via Compfight cc

Circle of Blue and the Institute for Globally Transformative Technologies announced back in March they are working on a tool called ‘Choke Point: Index.’  From the announcement:

Circle of Blue, a team of award-winning journalists and researchers reporting on water and other worldwide resource issues, and the Institute for Globally Transformative Technologies (LIGTT) at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, a pioneer in bringing scientific solutions to critical global problems, have partnered to create Choke Point: Index, the first dynamic, open-source data and on-the-ground journalism project exploring the globally significant competition between water, food, and energy.

If you are not familiar with Circle of Blue or the Institute for Globally Transformative Technologies, they are well worth getting to know.  They do tremendous work on big world-changing issues that have implications for the work planners and policy makers do every day.  Circle of Blue, for example, has quite the track record on the open data front, having worked with Google and the Pacific Institute to initially develop Fusion Tables to help scientists and journalists share and collaborate around data.  This project will advance that work and the work of others to bring water datasets more readily in to your hands.

This is an important project to watch for planners, policy makers and the public alike.  While peak oil gets a lot of attention, there are potentially equally significant and related impacts from water on food and energy.  This project will bring even greater understanding to the issues through open data on the impacts water scarcity is having on our communities.  The team will develop the tool through the summer in North America with the goal of being to apply it in India and other parts of the world.  According to the announcement from Circle of Blue, the tool will allow users to:

  • Select from hundreds of thousands of public, live, historic, crowd-sourced, and polling data sets from around the world
  • Merge these data and/or add new data
  • Visualize by importing data to Google Maps, Google Earth,, real-time dashboards, and other open-source platforms
  • Export data sets to other applications and projects using programming APIs
  • Share and embed data sets and visualizations in web pages, with incentives to increase visibility, searchability, and accessibility across the Internet
  • Track the sources of data

I for one am very excited about this project because it brings a multi-disciplinary, open and transparent approach to a very important issue affecting communities worldwide.  It also has implications for scenario planning and traditional urban and regional planning, bringing greater amounts of open data in to these processes.  This project tracks very well against the spirit of the Open Planning Tools Group and the data ecosystem advocated for by the Lincoln Report Opening Access to Scenario Planning Tools. I believe many will come to benefit from having access to Choke Point: Index.

What do you think? Do you see this as potentially useful in your own work?


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