Bringing Humans into the water cycle
October 15, 2022 10:49 PM   Subscribe

Bringing Humans into the water cycle
The USGS just announced a new version of the venerable, 20 year old USGS water cycle diagram after an 18 month redesign process. Zoomable non-pdf version EOS described it as "Not Your Childhood Water Cycle"

text version of a longer Twitter thread:

The 18-month redesign focused on 1) scientific accuracy, 2) design aesthetics, 3) usability in educational settings.

Improved scientific accuracy: the new diagram accurately shows the major pools (where water is located) and fluxes (how water moves between pools), reflecting the best available hydrologic science. It incorporates human impacts on water quantity, including how we use water (like irrigation withdrawals) and the timing of how water moves (like holding back water in a reservoir). It also shows how humans affect water quality, either directly (like hot water discharges from a thermoelectric power plant) or indirectly (picking up contaminants as it runs over urban streets).The water cycle isn’t one big cycle, but many smaller, nested water cycles that are active across the landscape. The new diagram shows multiple watershed types in a variety of environments. Each has its own pools and fluxes, connected by processes that occur at larger scales. The new diagram includes pools and fluxes often left off other diagrams, including oceans, wetlands, permafrost, soil moisture, and especially groundwater (a large pool that’s hard to understand and visualize). Groundwater is depicted by pore space and fractures, not an underground river, which is incorrect. We show that aquifers can be isolated (confined) or connected by porous rock or fractures, with or without pathways for recharge, and can be affected by human activity.

Improved design aesthetics: use of perspective, colors, labels, arrows, and visual hierarchy (how users focus their attention). The new diagram was inspired by landscape architecture and stormwater diagrams that show water as the focal feature and show background details in grayscale. The new diagram was inspired by landscape architecture and stormwater diagrams that show water as the focal feature and show background details in grayscale. The visual hierarchy of the new diagram is 1) water - using blue as the only color, 2) labels, 3) small, distributed arrows, and 4) the background landscape and inset cycle. To make sure our new diagram would be usable, we talked to the people who use the USGS water cycle diagram the most – educators – throughout the design process.
Role: Colleague
posted by rockindata (1 comment total) 10 users marked this as a favorite
This project was posted to MetaFilter by aniola on November 3, 2022: Bringing Humans into the water cycle

Fantastic work, I like this deagram quite a bit
posted by rebent at 5:58 AM on October 17 [1 favorite]


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