From unwieldy to understandable – transform the way you view data
People are afraid of data and numbers because it seems complicated. Visualising it will help you understand, form patterns and analyse better.
19 Jun 2013
Piece the data puzzle together to tell a story

IWP has over 200 sets of water data online. Of this, we have converted around 16 to an Excel format and will be adding more in the coming weeks for you to download. Use our Data Finder, a search tool for finding water data online, to search for this information. 

There is a lot of water data available through different government and agency sites but most isn’t in a format that’s easy to work with. Often, data is published because it has to be not because it needs to be understood. Presenting it in a spread sheet format makes it easy for people to understand and even reuse for further analysis and projects. 

For example, ‘Taluk Level Water Quality Data for Karnataka from 2001’ was originally a PDF. A snapshot (see below) of how the data was presented shows you clearly that the information wasn’t in a usable format.  It only contained simple tables with summary information. These tables allow for easier visualizations of state wide comparisons. The Taluk level sheets have more information but do not allow for easy comparisons across the state. We currently have only one of these tables in an Excel format but just with that, you can see how this data can be transformed into something more meaningful.  

The current data looks like this:

Water quality table Karnataka
Using the different charting and mapping tools available these days, we can visualize this in many ways. Tableau Public and Google Fusion Tables are some examples of such tools. A new tool by a company called Gramener allows you to cut and paste spread sheet tables into an application to create a simple heat map, where the higher values are in reds and yellows, and the lower values in greens. This is illustrated in the example below.

Karnataka Water Quality Map Visualization

The data shows the number of villages affected with excess fluoride, nitrate, iron, and dissolved salts. When these villages are grouped together, it is easy to see which district has the highest levels of contamination. You can use more in-depth data and tools to give a better context to the data than the simple numbers.

For instance you can use Tableau Public to make graphs and charts in a different way.The top black line is the total number of villages/habitations in a district. The green lines are marking the 10% and 50% points (so 10% of the total villages). The bars show the number of affected villages with excess contaminates. The data provided is Taluk level so we can do a few charts comparing across the Taluks to see which ones are the most affected.Again there is no sample size information so we are comparing the sample number affected by the total village and habitation information.

Karnataka water quality visualizations

Karnataka water quality visualizations
You can see from the above charts that Tumkur seems to have higher levels of contamints. We can use the same tool to look at the taluk level data for Tumkur.
Tumkur water quality visualizations
Then we can use Taluk shape files for India on Google Fusion Tables to map the data on a Taluk level. Lower numbers are in the green and blue area and the higher numbers are in the red and orange.


It is easy to understand patterns when data is viewed visually. This could result in different questions being asked. Why are some areas affected more than others? Are the reasons for this natural or industrial? Do you live in an affected area? Do you face any health hazards because of this? And so on. Having data in a more accessible format lets more people use it to hopefully express their concerns and worries. 
The data presented here and the data sets available for download is not IWP’s data. We have just converted third party data into a different format. We don’t take responsibility for its accuracy. Please contact the respective agencies for any questions, clarifications or information on methodologies used for data collection.
If there Is a particular data set you’re looking for, let us know and we will try to get it in an Excel format. 
(Lead Photo by Behnam Esfahbod  creative commons license.)
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