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How we work on the Water Data for the Nation Team

A description of how the Water Data for the Nation software development team works.

Date Posted March 9, 2021 Last Updated October 19, 2023
Author Emily K Read
Reading Time 3 minutes Share

The USGS Water Mission Area (WMA) is the largest provider of real time and historical water information in the world. A major part of our work in the WMA Web Communications Branch is to build modern web applications and APIs to make these data publicly available. We call our data delivery product line Water Data for the Nation (WDFN). Here’s our product vision:

Water Data for the Nation makes high-quality water information discoverable, accessible, and usable for everyone.

We use a principled approach to accomplishing our goals. Here’s more about how we work:

  • Public service orientation. Our team is dedicated to transforming Federal water data delivery and using technical innovations to do so.

  • Working in the open. We make our data and code available, so that others can see it, use it, or contribute back. We’re committed to FAIR data principles.

  • We use disciplines of product management, user centered design, and software engineering to accomplish our work:

    • Product management. Cyd Harrell’s definition of product management, as stated in The Civic Technologist’s Practice Guide, is useful: Product management is “the strategic discipline of uniting a team around a product vision and making trade-offs across technical, design, and business domains to determine how to invest and when to ship.” Enough said.

    • User-centered design. Our design decisions can impact millions of users, so we need evidence to drive feature development. We partner with GSA TTS 18F to train up and tackle major design challenges, and use human-centered design methods frequently in our work.

    • Software engineering. Our team is not locked into particular frameworks, but we do insist on

      • doing our work in the open using Github and self-hosted tools
      • code quality using tools like Codacy and SonarQube
      • Peer review of all code and all configuration
      • Continous integration using tools like Jenkins and Gitlab CI
      • Regular deploys with a long-term goal of continous deployment.
      • working toward a culture of devsecops

      so that our products will be more maintainable and easier to evolve. While we do a lot of custom software development, we stand on the shoulders of giants, and build on best of breed open source tools such as:

      when available.

    • Agile methodology and its cadences and ceremonies bring together product, design, and engineering activities to delivery value to users frequently. Our current flavor of agile uses a scrum team, daily standups, and biweekly technical deep-dives, demos, and planning ceremonies. Learn more about where we came from here. We’re currently transitioning from a single scrum to a large-scale scrum model as part of an emphasis on continuous process improvement. We’ll will report back later how it’s working.

To learn more about our products, tech, and design, check out these resources:

Doing user research to design the next-gen WDFN.

Modern groundwater dataflow delivered through mobile-first next-generation monitoring location pages.

A recent set of release notes, demonstrating delivery of valuable features to users.

Our legacy data access application:

Our legacy data access services:

Modern monitoring location pages:

Any use of trade, firm, or product names is for descriptive purposes only and does not imply endorsement by the U.S. Government.


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