Open 'Flood' Data
Last year the Environment Agency increased its publication of Open Data. In the first instance, and in response to the extreme flooding episodes of the 2013/14 winter, this included access to flood warnings, flood alerts and river levels data.
Data was released through a combination of standalone download pages and Application Programming Interfaces (APIs) so that it was available during the flooding,
We wanted to make data available via APIs so that we could enable innovation, wider use of public data and better outcomes for our environment. The data release complemented the official warning service of the Environment Agency, Floodline Warnings Direct, which provides to over 1.1 million properties in England and Wales.
New 'Flood Data' APIs
Today we have released a new set of flood data APIs, as part of our commitment to Open Data.
So why are we doing this?
Our initial release of dynamic flood data was achieved in a very short space of time. Over the last few months we have reviewed user feedback and acted upon it. We wanted, for example, to remove the need to register and to provide more documentation to developers to explain more about our data and how it can be used. We also wanted to provide everything in one place to our users, rather than being redirected to different locations on the web.
How are the new APIs different?
The data will only be provided for England and not Wales, reflecting the new operational geography of the Environment Agency and Natural Resources Wales.
The new APIs will only be providing the Open Data as a feed to allow others to develop innovative new applications.
At the same time, we are making a new 'Live Flood Warning Map' service available alongside the release of the new APIs. Our new service will be linked directly from gov.uk. It has been developed using extensive user research to ensure it meets their needs. It will be tested for 6 months and we will continue to seek feedback from users and improve the service.
The new APIs were created from scratch, and there were three key technical challenges we wanted to address:
- We have minimised the range of options in the API to keep documentation and support complexity down and improve effectiveness of caching. This is based on our experience of providing the Bathing Waters Data Explorer
- URI design has followed the guidance set out for the public sector
- We’ve mostly avoided 'child collection patterns'. So, for example in the river level data, 'measures' are top level types rather than appearing under 'stations'. This is consistent with the guidelines, and the proposed new guidance being developed as part of the Open Standards process
We will be iteratively improving the APIs through Beta and welcome feedback via firstname.lastname@example.org.