BRIEF February 9, 2018

Improving Public Access to Basin Data

Addressing many existing and evolving development challenges around the world today are constrained by poor access to spatial and temporal data. This is particularly true for water resources challenges in transboundary water settings. Shared data, knowledge, and analytical tools enable timely, transparent, and regionally beneficial decision making. At the same time, effective information platforms improve responses to water related hazards, which can be more frequent and extreme in a changing climate. By increasing access and usability of climate, environmental, water resources, and economic data, it becomes easier to create a common understanding of shared basins, therefore boosting trust and confidence and forming a foundation for transboundary cooperation.

Modern advances have unshackled a new world of open data. New high quality datasets covering topics like water resources, disasters, climate change, trade, and general development are collected and made public as online data and mapping services by institutions and governments across the world. Earth observation from an increasingly powerful fleet of public and private satellites provides unbiased, synoptic views of the globe. The problem is that many of these datasets are fragmented, come in various formats, and aren’t well-known or easily accessible or viewable when scattered among thousands of websites. River basin organizations, governments, and water development professionals need easy, reliable, and useful access to these diverse datasets to foster cooperation.


The Improving Public Access to Basin Data project addresses the hurdles faced by governments and development professionals regarding their need for access and usability of public data. The project set out to develop an effective platform for accessing, visualizing, and exploring datasets relevant to river basin and regional cooperation and other development issues. The result is a highly interactive web-based mapping portal application for all major international river basins in Africa called Spatial Agent. With the support of other financing, this information is now global, enabling easy comparisons of the Africa region with other parts of the world.

The Spatial Agent app puts a world of basin insights in the user’s hand by enabling easy and highly interactive access to a burgeoning group of public domain multi-sectoral datasets – including live data – at the global, regional, and national levels. The app brings together thousands of datasets from over 1,300 web services that cover a wide range of topics. Users can seamlessly search, visualize, and compare data related to river basin development issues through interactive maps and charts at different scales and time ranges.


Along with the app, the Improving Public Access to Basin Data project resulted in the development of a set of e-books to provide easy offline access to the data sets and encourage future use of the publicly available data. The e-books include the CIWA Africa Atlas and the Spatial Data Primer. The CIWA Africa Atlas is an interactive repository of key maps, animations, and infographics related to Africa and each transboundary river basin. The information can be easily downloaded for use in reports and presentations. The Spatial Data Primer is an interactive e-book that acts as a companion to the Spatial Agent App and allows users to access the metadata and data sources used in the app.

Download the Spatial Agent App from the Apple Appstore for iOS devices or the Google Play Store for Android devices.