Onema

Home - Mission - Manage the WIS-F and produce data

  • The water information system: Multiple aims

    Major elements in the system are designed to meet three goals:
    1. Obtain knowledge on water resources and aquatic environments.
    2. Assess the pressures exerted on aquatic environments and the consequences.
    3. Guide and evaluate public policies designed to protect and restore aquatic environments.

  • Users of water information

    Public institutions and organisations The State, water managers, water users, experts and citizens all require water information. They need to know the aquatic environment characteristics on which their activity can impact.

  • Onema is the national coordinator for the WIS-F

    The Water and biodiversity directorate at the Ecology ministry sets the general guidelines for the WIS-F. Onema provides technical coordination and manages the steering system. Assisted by an interbasin coordination committee and technical groups, Onema sets up the national action plan and is in charge of project programming and supervision. Further responsibilities of Onema concern the financing, the establishing methods and reference systems, the managment of national databases and the many tools involved in processing, using and disseminating the data, as well as reporting to the European commission.

Second national report on the observatory on public water and sanitation services

Following on current practices in the ICT sector, targeting creative and innovative software developments, Onema organised in June the first "hackathon" for water data. The objectives were to imagine and create new technical means to access water data and to design original uses of the data. Organised with Etalab, an agency run by the Prime minister's office to enhance access to public data and develop French open-data sites, the workshop identified specific problems and looked at potential solutions.


What is a "hackathon"? The word itself is a combination of "hack" and "marathon". It is essentially an event where people, generally computer programmers, come together to produce a collaborative computer programme over several days. The goal is to come up with a solution for a joint project as quickly as possible.

The purpose of the first event of this type organised by Onema was to assess the accessibility and shareability of open water data for professionals in the water sector. The hackathon was part of the action plan to enhance access to water data adopted by the National water committee in December 2013, following the report delivered to the environmental conference noting the lack of clarity and public access to the data.

Recruited by email or tweets, the 35 participants were all volunteers and spent a total of almost nine hours working on the topic. The participants included journalists, engineers from design offices, web designers, researchers, network administrators as well as representatives from Onema, the Ecology and Health ministries, IOWater and BRGM. The day-long meeting was divided into three sections, namely how to merge water data, including data not drawn from the water information system for France (WIS-FR), dissemination conditions to ensure easy reuse and data visualisation.

Though a single day was too short, a number of conclusions may be drawn from this first meeting. Most of the data managed by the WIS-FR is freely accessible via the internet under an open license. The only exceptions concern data on river discharges (which require a log-in and a password) and data on pesticide sales (access limited due to confidentiality of tax records). However, extraction of the data in a usable form remains long and difficult. This is because the systems used to access the data on professional sites propose a wide array of selection criteria that are certainly helpful for professionals in the water sector, but that make data recovery very complicated and even impossible for non-professionals. Finally, the data formats available via the WIS-FR are more often suitable for transfer to other machines rather than for use by people who reuse the data for professional purposes. Concerning other data sources, their access is generally less open, with the exception of the data on the European Eionet site on drinking and bathing water. Another negative aspect of the non-WIS-FR data is that some data series cannot be reused because they lack the pivot data required to establish links with other data (INSEE town codes in France, coordinates).

At Onema, work has already been launched to define the most suitable data formats for reuse, in addition to the existing formats. The upcoming hackathon in 2015 will continue the work in this field and will address other problems in order to constantly improve access to WIS-FR data.

  • 1. All the data used for the report were drawn from the 2010 RPQS reports. The data cover 76% of the population for drinking water and 63% of the population for sanitation services, i.e. a bit more than in the previous report on the 2009 data.
  • 2. Source: Ninth edition of the NUS Consulting survey on the prices of water services in Europe between 2011 and 2013, for the Professional federation of water companies.

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