Maine Rural Water Association
- Application Planning
- Custom Application Development
From Planning to Development
The Maine Rural Water Association is a federally and state-funded non-profit that provides hands-on training and technical assistance to small water and wastewater utilities in the state of Maine.
In 2019, the Maine Rural Water Association (MRWA) approached BRS with a problem: MRWA knew it was sitting on a ton of valuable data from water utilities over the years—data that offers insights into logistical next steps, such as the rate at which a system’s infrastructure should be replaced and the commensurate impact of those upgrades on the utility cost to customers. Large utilities have the benefit of paid staff to help perform these calculations and make assessments, but making said data and indicators more accessible democratizes the knowledge and resources so that smaller utilities can benefit from the data without such resources. Valuable information indeed – but how do you visualize such dense, specialized data in an intuitive, easy-to-use way?
We were given a technical manual of operational and financial indicators, access to MRWA managers who were both enthusiastic and passionate, and dove into this project as if we were being trained for jobs at MRWA. After initial discovery conversations, both teams agreed that the number of unknowns around user experience and workflow, coupled with the scope of the data made MRWA an ideal candidate for Application Planning.
We worked with MRWA’s core team to design wireframes, write technical specifications, outline a project timeline with cost estimates, and outline an implementation approach complete with team roles and a glossary of project nomenclature. MRWA was so pleased with the application planning phase, that they decided to move forward with development at BRS.
The final product took the shape of a web application with robust filtering and comparison options, allowing users to view historical data, trends, and other factors that are useful for advocacy. We were able to launch the application just ahead of schedule and budget thanks to all the care taken during the planning phase of the project. The website is fully available for public use, and currently features three years of operational and financial metrics aggregated from 41 water systems, with the goal to ultimately expand to 150. In order to facilitate the easiest possible access, we decided to forego authentication and user roles, while featuring robust URLs that allow users to bookmark and share searches.
The web dashboard provides human-readable information, derivations of indicators, and explanations of the inputs and outputs in order to promote ease of use and traction for those who have no industry-specific training. We also prioritized making data easily exportable as CSVs, so that users who feel more at home in spreadsheets or programming their own visualizations, have access to the raw data.