Data Source Components Overview

Get to know the feature components before you start building out a data source for a monitoring program,

Commons Support avatar
Written by Commons Support
Updated over a week ago

Administrative owners that intend to manage data in Water Reporter will spend the good part of their time in the Data Source feature. That said, after the initial investment in setting up a new data source, maintenance and keeping your data up-to-date should be significantly easier than maintaining spreadsheets or desktop databases.

In this lesson, we are going to focus on some core principles of the Data Source construction and maintenance. Then, select the lesson on the type of data source that you intend to build for specifics.

As previously mentioned just a short time ago, users have A LOT of choice when it comes to building a data source. While I’m sure you can think of something else you wish it did, you’ll be hell bent to find a more accessible and simple system to use to meet the majority of your monitoring and data management needs for what is offered.


To get started, you need to click the green plus circle to create a new data source. The name and description matter, as these will appear on any public facing forms and/or visualizations that you create to publish this data.


Immediately, the choose-your-own adventure of data source creation begins. You need to decide if you are building a data source of data that you will input (User-Managed) or linking to an external data source that you just want to add as a layer to a map (Third-party Integration). You’ll want to check out the lesson on each type below for specifics.

For simplicity’s sake, let’s assume that you’re building a user-managed data source right now. You have more options right out of the gate!

Managers collect monitoring data either from fixed stations or at on-the-fly locations, or those that are collected as part of a sample. Each Data Source can only support one of those options, so choose it now.

The final decision you need to make just to get started is if you are making a report card, which displays a single annual score for each station and parameter, or if you are collecting samples over time.

All of these choices matter in preparing the platform to understand what sort of data to expect to come in and how to eventually visualize it through maps.


There is honestly no obvious answer for how to start building your data source. You have two options.

First, if you have all of the information ready to be entered into a data source, you can upload - also affectionately known as bootstrapping - your file from the Create A New Data Source page and the system will do everything for you. Your file needs to meet our specifications exactly - no rogue capitalizations or mis-spellings - in order for it to work properly. We’ve helped by creating this handy downloadable template that you can tweak to fit your needs and then upload to your Data Source.

Second, you can just click save and then start building the data source section by section. The choice is yours. As we keep moving along here, perhaps your preference will show itself.


After you have saved your new data source you’ll want to enter it and take a look around. From your main Data Source page in the Group dashboard, click on the edit icon to enter into a data source. Consider this your speed-dating five minute ‘getting to know you’ phase for each feature before we actually tell you how to use and populate everything. That’s second date material.

SUMMARY. The summary page shows you how many data points, stations, and parameters your data source has. It’s a helpful reference to make sure that you’re in the right place and everything is up to date. From the summary page you can also import batches of stations and readings. If this is your first time inside this data source and you’re still building out your structure the best plan of attack is to add a file of stations, then head over to the parameters tab and add those. After the data source is active and collecting data, any data collected via contributors will wait here as a pending sample until verified or deleted by an account owner.

SETTINGS. Settings lets you rename or re-describe your data source. If you need to change the sample geo-location type or the scoring type, you can do it on this page too.

INDICATORS. Indicators are a future feature where you will be able to build a library of labels and colors to apply to parameters. We’re excited to release this convenient aid, but right now it is not linked to parameters. If you’d like to take advantage of indicators, you can add in your labels and colors as a quick reference point. Skipping this feature will have no negative impact on your data source.

STATIONS. For those data sources that collect data at fixed locations, stations are a critical component. If you’re just getting started, use the batch import feature to upload a spreadsheet of all of your stations. Once stations are populated you’ll be able to add photos, create station specific ranges for certain parameters if needed, and hibernate stations that are not actively collecting data.

UNITS. Every good scientist wants to know what unit is used to measure a specific parameter. You can build your list of all units here.

PARAMETERS. Only enter quantitative parameters into this list. At this time, all parameters must be entered manually unless you built your data source via the bootstrap method originally. Once you have entered your parameters you can add ranges to show indicators contingent on thresholds. There is so much to unpack in parameters and if I start writing it out here then we will never move on to the next section. Suffice it to say, at this stage, put all parameters that will appear on maps into this list before moving on to Forms. Any field that you enter directly into a form cannot be a parameter. And why does this matter? Only items listed as parameters will publish on map visualizations. So plan accordingly!

FORM. Forms, glorious forms, let you and your data contributors enter data to then be added to this data source. It shortens the chain of custody of a data sample, reduces the possibility of data being lost, and improves multi-user management of a data source. Forms can collect a multitude of different data types (basically everything except a check-list) and are available to collect on-the-fly locations or add data to a specific station. If you do not intend to use forms to collect data, that’s OK. You can skip this step and continue to upload data via .csv files.

CONTRIBUTORS. After you have built your form you can invite basic users to enter data into it. All basic users must be added as contributors in order to have access to the form. Once added the form will appear on both their mobile phone Water Reporter app as well as via their online dashboard. Account Owners do not need to be added to the contributor list, as they will already see the form appear with the option to contribute data. Again, if you have no intention of using the forms and rather will maintain your data source via .csv uploads, then you can skip this feature.

SAMPLES. As data is added to the data source, it will appear in the sample feature. Samples can be added via forms and .csv batch uploads.

IMPORTS. Add a new import via .csv here. But wait, there’s more! This functionality deals with all .csv imported data. So account owners can review existing imports, download the original imported file, or delete a file if necessary.

EXPORTS. All of the data can be exported as well. This is especially important considering that you will have data coming in from contributors that you might want to export into one file. At this time, you’ll have to use your handy excel knowledge to filter the file after export as there is no filtering option in Water Reporter.

TASKS. Tasks are automated jobs that the system performs in response to certain changes in the data source. Tasks with a “pending” status are in progress or waiting their turn in the overall queue.

So now that you’ve glanced at the different components of the data source that you will build, let’s give the quickest of discussions to what will happen after you’ve built your data source.


You’ve built your data source so that you can maintain your data in one place. You, additional account owners, and contributors will collaborate to keep adding data to your data source. The system will consolidate data coming in from various sources and maintain it until you need to share it through publication or dissemination.


Think of “analysis” as the “what does this even mean” component. Upon setup of your data source you have the option to add labels as indicators for ranges within specific parameters. This is why parameters only accept quantitative values at this time. Those indicators will appear on external visualizations of your stations.

It’s interesting, because even if you have complex calculations to perform, you probably still have a final step of translating the result into a digestible chunk of information, and that final hurdle of turning a number into a teachable moment or decision-making data point for the general public, educators, scientists, manages, or legislators, can still be achieved in Water Reporter.


For the love of all things beautiful and meaningful in this world, please do not let the data that gets entered into Water Reporter hide in Water Reporter! All of your hard earned-monitoring work will flourish by publishing it as portable visualizations on maps via Water Reporter or third-party applications, disseminating it into third-party data repositories, or sharing raw data via download links with sector experts who can utilize your monitoring data to answer additional questions.

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