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More than just information, Go Hydrology delivers products — a podcast, a bookshelf, a dictionary, cheatsheets, tutorials, a lecture series, campfire talks, and more — all aimed at giving you an immersive water experience. | Water products | Writing water | Speaking water | Measuring water | Cultural water | Cheatsheets | Mailbag | About this blog | Return to main blog

Intro - We Dive Deeper

Our Goal: More water, in as many ways as possible

By Robert V. Sobczak

About our products ...

Whether it’s a podcast, watersh-editorials, a photo gallery, a narrated movie, a coffee-table (or tea if you prefer) friendly report, our cheatsheets, artisanal hydrographs, a tutorial on how to read a hydrograph, or a narrated power-point lecture, the driving force is communication.

Hydrology, like life, is a ladder you climb up

Confession: I could feed you boring prose until the cows come home, and you can find generic text on a topic all across the web. The purpose of Go Hydrology is to cut through the red tape and bureaucratic babble to deliver fresh water cycle right to your doorstep. And unlike a lot of other NGOs out there, I'm trying to serve up the water, not the politics and or a donation. (But if you so inclined, please feel free to donate, as I pay for the website out of my own pocket.)

Another confession: I may not know everything about the water, but I was brought up by dedicated if also imperfect parents (and, to be honest my older brother probably reinforced the point, only possibly trumped by my first boss, a brick and block mason, who reiterated the fact: “Whatever you do, produce a product in life.”

Really, the goal of this website is as much about the overall structure as the products it produces. I'll admit that my podcast isn't the best, and my narrated videos could use some work. The idea is to show how all the products can be weaved together to generate a sum that is larger than all its parts.

So bear with me as I refine my existing products and add more to the mix

More details

editorial

What are watersh-editorials?
It's about giving water a voice at the table

It’s easy to love the water …

But who’s standing up for it when it needs a voice.

Giving water a seat at the table

That’s where Go Hydrology steps up to the plate with its watersh-editorials. What is a watersh-editorial? It’s basically an editorial about water, or some aspect of water or nature (sometimes the trees) that deserves everyone’s attention and deserves being fixed.

I know what your thinking: But isn’t Go Hydrology a place that steers clear of controversy and political camps? And what if we say the wrong thing — could that step on the wrong people’s toes?

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Question: Watersh-editorials are a way to give water a voice.

To be honest, I doubt it. And isn’t that what Go Hydrology is perfectly positioned to avoid. From Day One, the dialog at Go Hydrology has been about getting to the bottom of what the water in all its forms that both technical experts and lay enthusiasts can enjoy. Water is a great uniter, and something we can all stand, if not behind, then in (even if it is over ankle deep): Here at Go Hydrology we’re all about getting our feet wet. In sum, a watersh-editorial is not about pointing fingers, it’s about putting issues, information and ideas at peoples fingertips so we can all join forces to get the water right.

In my opinion – and I think I speak for the water on this – a civil dialog is a lost art form.

editorial
diagrams

Drawing water

Diagrams don’t make the data …

They help us visualize data better.

Swamp water pyramid

A good diagram isn’t too simple and isn’t too complex. Most of all it helps make the data come to life. Take for example a good cross section of the swamp. You can explain to someone until the cows come home that cypress are in the low lying areas and pinelands higher up. But it’s not until you diagram up a three-dimensional wedge of land going from lowest to highest, and assign an elevation for each, that the data really start to pop.

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Question: What’s the purpose of drawing when Uncle Internet supplies us with all the images we need?

And you can talk about the water seasons – sentence after sentence – until everyone’s eyes start to glaze over with blank looks, or you can without even saying a word show them an animated diagram that instantly connects.

An oldie, but a goodie (of the Everglades)

In short, diagrams are like a photo: They cut to the chase without using many (if any) words. Somewhere along the way somebody said “a thousand words” but I’ve never read a scientific paper confirming or denying its accuracy, although that’s probably not the point. The power of a good diagrams is making direct connect and help translate complex concepts or processes that words alone cannot convey (well).

And lastly, who doesn’t love looking at a simple but well done diagram, especially if it’s animated with some moving parts. Some may say that’s soft science, or not science at all. But for me it strikes at the core of the profession: Translating information and processes into formats people can understand.

cypress dome cartoon
A simple drawing of a flooded cypress dome

I heart diagrams.

diagrams
swampulator

What is a swampulator?
And where can I buy one?

Do you remember the days …

Of regularly making calculations using paper and pen?

When simple math is best

And yes, probably at times you used a calculator, too. But it was some combination of paper, pen/pencil and a rudimentary calculator that allowed you to really think the problem through. And here’s the important part: You also had a sheet of paper when you were done that you could refer to double check your math.

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Questions: Where can I buy a swampulator, and does it take Double A batteries?

So, in full disclosure, the swampulator is more a method than a machine. For me it started with trying to quantify flow rates in the Everglades in units that I could understand. Anyone who’s dabbled even a little bit in the hydrologic numbers game knows: the units quickly get tricky and obtuse. That got me to thinking: What if I translated cubic feet per day, week and year into volumes that a lay audience (and yes, even myself) could better understand — such as Fenway Park sized cups of water (i.e. filled up to the top of the 37.5 foot tall Green monster), Empire State Building sized glasses water and Lake Okeechobee sized bowls of water. Olympic sized swimming pools also work well.

For me, the swampulator is a reminder that there’s still a place for simple math, and not only is it sometimes the best place to start, it helps foster a new mode of thought. It might also make you a better communicator, too.

One Fenway volume of water

So, to answer the original question: Yes, you can buy it in a store, but you probably have everything you need to build at home.

All you need is a calculator, some paper and pen!

swampulator
user manual

User Manual
Quick guide for reading a chart

Go Hydrology may look like a blog …

But it actually started as a charting project.

Instructions manuals can come in handy

The original goal: Create hydrographs that really make the data pop. Now, by pop, I mean bringing the data to life. You see, a number or a line by itself is really just a number (or line), and really not that useful at all, or as useful as it could be. What good is it knowing a wetland level in feet above sea level if what’s really important is the “water depth” in the nearby slough. And how long does that slough stay wet each year? And how long does it stay that wet for a typical year, or the past five years?

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Question: Where can I find a good text book on hydrology?

With the above in mind I got to work doing a deep dive into the data to figure out what was possible and how to best graph it up. That included (1) locating the best index wells, (2) calculating the historic statistics for each site, (3) figuring out the key ecological and operational thresholds for the various areas (i.e. Everglades, Okeechobee, Big Cypress Swamp, etc. and (4) developing color codes and symbols for assorted chart types (i.e. hydrographs, bar charts, raster/calendar charts).

The charts and graphs are meant to serve up in the data in a format that makes everyone an “instant expert.” Or at a minimum, help experts and lay water enthusiasts visualize key trends.

The art of making a good hydrograph

However, for some the graphs are difficult to read. And even for everyone who can read them, it doesn’t hurt to discuss the underlying issues, philosophy and underlying assumptions that went into the making of each chart.

The goal of the OPS Manual is to go “behind the scenes” and shed light on how the charts were made and what they say.

Deeper Dives

Extras up my sleeve
If communication is key, so is creativity

Extras is actually a misnomer:

Whether it’s a podcast, watersh-editorials, a photo gallery, a narrated movie, a coffee-table (or tea if you prefer) friendly report or a power-point presentation, the driving force is communication.

Hydrology, like life, is a ladder you climb up

I could feed you boring prose until the cows come home, and you can find generic text on a topic all across the web. The purpose of Go Hydrology is to cut through the red tape and bureaucratic babble to deliver fresh water cycle right to your doorstep.

Or in other words, I may not know everything about the water, but I was brought up by dedicated if also imperfect parents (and, to be honest my older brother probably reinforced the point, only possibly trumped by my first boss, a brick and block mason, who reiterated the fact: “Whatever you do in life, produce a product.

So yes, there are more tricks up my sleeve, all driven by the mission of being constructive. Ideas that come to mind: Maps, timelines and diagrams are on my short list.

Deeper Dives

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