A Relational Model for Environmental and Water Resources Data

J. S. Horsburgh
David G. Tarboton, Utah State University
D. R. Maidment
I. Zaslavsky



Environmental observations are fundamental to hydrology and water resources, and the way these data are organized and manipulated either enables or inhibits the analyses that can be performed. The Observations Data Model presented here provides a new and consistent format for the storage and retrieval of point environmental observations in a relational database designed to facilitate integrated analysis of large data sets collected by multiple investigators. Within this data model, observations are stored with sufficient ancillary information (metadata) about the observations to allow them to be unambiguously interpreted and to provide traceable heritage from raw measurements to useable information. The design is based upon a relational database model that exposes each single observation as a record, taking advantage of the capability in relational database systems for querying based upon data values and enabling cross-dimension data retrieval and analysis. This paper presents the design principles and features of the Observations Data Model and illustrates how it can be used to enhance the organization, publication, and analysis of point observations data while retaining a simple relational format. The contribution of the data model to water resources is that it represents a new, systematic way to organize and share data that overcomes many of the syntactic and semantic differences between heterogeneous data sets, thereby facilitating an integrated understanding of water resources based on more extensive and fully specified information.