CTG UAlbany Partners with New York State on Water Quality Data Analytics

Algal blooms on Lake Erie
Algal blooms on Lake Erie. (Lake Erie MODIS Imagery, NOAA Coast Watch, Great Lakes Region)

ALBANY, N.Y. (July 22, 2021) — From the observation of chloride levels in rivers and streams to monitoring the occurrence of harmful algal blooms (HABs), New York State’s Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) serves a critical role in tracking water quality. Working in concert with the New York State Department of Health (NYSDOH), DEC’s water quality monitoring is part of its broader mission to protect the state’s natural resources and enhance the health, safety and welfare of the people of New York.

DEC and NYSDOH are partnered with the Center for Technology in Government at the University at Albany (CTG UAlbany) to develop a Water Quality Data Analytics prototype that will help DEC and DOH to compile, process and manage water quality information.

The New York State Water Data Analytics Prototype Project is the culmination of a 30-month project funded by the Clean Water Infrastructure Act, in partnership with DEC, DOH and the Office of Information Technology Services. It resulted in the development and delivery of an innovative data analytics system prototype that will allow DEC and DOH scientists to explore the use advanced statistical and artificial intelligence (AI) analysis techniques to inform decision and policy making related to protecting water quality in New York.

“One of the goals of the Center for Technology in Government in partnering with state agencies is to assist them in managing information and bringing it together into a common analytical platform,” said J. Ramon Gil-Garcia, director of CTG UAlbany.

This strategy is essentially built on the principle of connecting the dots — connecting possible applications of technology with the policy and management needed to govern it through an overarching, informed and long-term perspective.

“The data could then be used to support comprehensive analysis and understanding of New York’s water quality concerns and integration of analytical outcomes into DEC and DOH programs,” said Derek Werthmuller, director technology innovation and services at CTG UAlbany.

In addition, CTG provided recommendations on developing data management governance policies and practices to help the agencies get the most value out of the data that fuels their analyses.

“It has been a very positive and enlightening experience working with the team of researchers at UAlbany’s Center for Technology in Government,” said Karen Stainbrook, chief research scientist for lake monitoring and assessment with DEC. “We are very excited about the project outcomes and the future of DEC/DOH data analytics — we are very well prepared.”

The project also provided funding support for four doctoral students and nine master students from UAlbany’s College of Engineering and Applied Sciences, the College of Emergency Preparedness, Homeland Security and Cybersecurity, Rockefeller College of Public Affairs & Policy and the College of Arts and Sciences.

“The development of the prototype provided the students with research and practical experience, applying their skills and education to real world challenges,” said Gil-Garcia, who also serves as an associate professor of public administration and policy at Rockefeller College.