Cities across the country are increasing opening up municipal data to residents, from South Bend, Ind. opening up crime data and Los Angeles sharing parking statistics to San Francisco releasing a storm drain data portal and Cincinnati combating the heroin epidemic with open data.
Earlier this month, DC Water joined in. The District of Columbia’s utility service released an interactive open data portal to share information regarding DC Water’s operations and projects with the public. The utility service is hoping that increasing transparency will improve customer satisfaction.
“Good, solid data informs our decision-making and is critical to our operations and our long-range planning,” said George S. Hawkins, CEO and general manager of DC Water. “Sharing that data improves our communication with customers and could help identify ways to improve our performance.”
With the portal customers can now check if their home is due for a water meter replacement and see what construction projects are planned for their neighborhoods. Researchers can also see the location of water main breaks over the past five years and which fire hydrants are out of service, as well as export the data for further analysis. For ease of use, users can filter and visualize the data on a map of their neighborhood.
The open data portal, which is built on a platform designed by Socrata, had a soft launch in May, but wasn’t fully deployed until June 1. As part of the full launch, the open data portal now has five data sets that map automated meter replacements, capital improvement projects, water main breaks, fire hydrants, and sanitary sewer overflows. The portal updates fire hydrant information on a daily basis, while other data sets receive weekly updates.
DC Water said it anticipates adding additional data sets in the near future. DC Water also noted that Socrata has significant experience with these types of data portal through similar projects with other Federal, state, and local governments.
DC Water’s desire to improve customer satisfaction comes after the utility service came under scrutiny after aging meters produced inflated water bills. While the utility service has begun a strong effort to replace the old meters, the open data portal is another way to improve customer relations and restore trust in DC Water.