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The Visualizing Challenge

Thank you for your exceptional entries!
The contest is now closed.
The winners will be announced on March 22.

Meantime, if you have more good ideas about how the world should be looking at water data, we would love to hear them. The global water crisis is ongoing and needs the world’s collective creative design skills to see the problems in new ways and share new approaches to solutions.

Making Sense of Global Water Issues Through Data and Design
A mass migration from rural to urban areas is underway globally. More than half of humanity lives in cities. Of all the challenges that influence this transition, none is more fundamental than water. Yet many of the world’s metropolitan centers lack planning, infrastructure and the water resources needed to support the new tide of urban residents. That’s why cities are simultaneously places where the most dire resource challenges converge, and testing grounds for new ideas, practices, and water-related investments for managing urban transformation.

The Challenge

Visualize  :: The Challenge, the global open platform for data visualization, and Circle of Blue, the leading news organization reporting global water challenges, issue an ambitious and rapid-fire call to designers, data experts and visualizers to tap into the world’s stream of water data. The international contest, which offers a $5,000 cash prize, challenges cross-disciplinary thinkers and cutting-edge creative teams to use and display data to reveal new ways of understanding trends and patterns, complex systems and relationships.

Topic: Urban Water and Sanitation

  • connections between water and infrastructure capacities in cities
  • the effects of climate change on urban water supplies
  • urban water systems and sources
  • water quality and water pricing
  • water management and city planning
  • the water – energy – food – climate nexus
  • innovation
  • urban water data

Sample projects
Participants might explore:

  • Access to safe water and sanitation, and the relationship to education, GDP and other indicators;
  • New ways to map and track water climatological changes in the U.S. Great Lakes region, which supplies water to more than 40 million people, and comparing the Great Lakes to other parts of the world.
  • How urban areas use and manage water. Participants might tap into massive streams of live information from major river flows and aquifers that feed major metropolitan areas such as Mexico City or Los Angeles.
  • Asia’s water challenges — more than a billion people live downstream from the Himalayan glacial melt. How will climate change affect these flows and how will urban areas monitor and prepare for a potentially drier future?
  • Relationships between disease, water and climate.
  • Urban water management and the quality of available water data.
  • Financing water infrastructure.

How to participate

  1. Sign up online at
  2. Visit the water challenge on for more information and data.
  3. Visit Circle of Blue’s resource site at for more data and ideas.
  4. Submit your visualization at

This rapid-fire competition opened on Monday, February 21st and closed March 15. Winners will be announced on World Water Day, March 22.

The judges are a diverse panel of water and data experts, and information designers:

  • Brian Collins, Collins:
  • Heather Cooley, Pacific Institute
  • J. Carl Ganter, Circle of Blue
  • Alon Halevy, Google
  • Russell Kennedy, Icograda
  • Jennifer George-Palilonis, Ball State University
  • Arjun Thapan, Asian Development Bank

Past challenges
Past challenges have compared life expectancies, explored the relationship between green space and health, charted relationships between agriculture and resources, and showed relationships between the World Economic Forum’s Global Agenda Councils.

About is an open online data visualization platform. It is a free resource for designers and students looking for open data about world issues – such as climate change and global health; a platform for the creative community to share visualizations with each other and the public under a Creative Commons share-alike non-commercial license; a service that provides researchers, decision makers, media organizations, educators and the public with important information design; and a tool for schools to showcase the work of their students and help bring data visualization into the classroom. Support for comes from Seed Media Group, publishers of Seed Magazine, and General Electric. For more, visit:   About Visualizing

About Circle of Blue
Circle of Blue is the national and global network of leading multimedia journalists, researchers and data experts that produces daily coverage and trend-setting reports about water issues from every continent. Circle of Blue approaches the freshwater crisis with three coordinated, interrelated components: front-line journalism, existing and new science and data, and communications design. Circle of Blue’s widely referenced reporting makes water issues personal and relevant while providing a hub for data visualization, aggregation and integration. Circle of Blue applies the best tools of the 21st century to help provide the knowledge that people need to make informed decisions. Circle of Blue co-founded Designing Water’s Future and is a nonprofit affiliate of the Pacific Institute. Back to the top.

Want to share data you have discovered or compiled?
Click Here to email us information we can share for the competition and beyond.

Data for Visualization

The Google Public Data Explorer makes large datasets easy to explore, visualize and communicate.

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Water Data from The World’s Water Here you will find data tables from the Pacific Institute’s World’s Water series, along with select content from the 2008-2009 edition.
The European Environment Agency has several resources, from data tables to graphs and maps.
Childinfo This website contains UNICEF’s statistical information, including data used in UNICEF’s flagship publications, The State of the World’s Children and Progress for Children.
Progress on Sanitation and Drinking-water: Country estimates for 1990, 2000 and 2008
Worldbank World Bank Data Catalog The World Bank’s Open Data initiative is intended to provide all users with access to World Bank data. Users can also choose to download the entire database directly from the catalog.
BP Statistical Review of the Worlds Energy 2010 The BP Statistical Review of World Energy 2008 provides quantitative data on the major fundamentals of the energy market.
Great Lakes Environmental Research Laboratory Data Center
NOAA Tides and Currents Database
Asian Development Bank – Statistics Based in Manila, the Asian Development Bank is a multilateral finance institution that promotes economic and social progress in the Asia-Pacific region.
Data on Climate Change
RealClimate has a complete list of Climate Change data resources and links.
Want to share data or resources you have discovered?
Click Here to email us information we can share for the competition.

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World Water Day website The World Water Day 2011 website has info, graphics and several relevant publications, which are also available for download below.
UnHabitat State of the World’s Cities 2010/2011 – Cities for All: Bridging the Urban Divide (16MB PDF)
UnHabitat Solid Waste Management in the World’s Cities: Water and Sanitation in the World’s Cities 2010 (12.9MB PDF)
UNW-DPAC Water and Cities – Facts and Figures (162Kb PDF)
UNW-DPAC Water and Cities – Reader (185Kb PDF)
UNW-DPAC Water and Cities – Facts and Figures – A Snapshot (162Kb PDF)
UNW-DPAC Water and Cities (Media Brief 79Kb PDF)
UNW-DPAC Water and Urbanization (Media Brief 129Kb PDF)
UNW-DPAC Cities Coping With Water Uncertainties (Media Brief 129Kb PDF)
UNW-DPAC Water Quality and Sanitation ( Media Brief 125Kb PDF)
UNW-DPAC Cities and Their Rural Surroundings (Media Brief 123Kb PDF)
Want to share data or resources you have discovered?
Click Here to email us information we can share for the competition.

UN-HABITAT analyses and studies human settlement patterns, and develops methods for controlled settlement with the preservation of the environment in mind. Their Urban Indicator Tool is a quick way to access data for countries and regions.

UN Water

UN-Water is the inter-agency mechanism that promotes coherence in, and coordination of UN system actions aimed at the implementation of the agenda defined by the Millennium Declaration and the World Summit on Sustainable Development as it relates to its scope of work.

iys The triennial World Water Development Report (WWDR) is the United Nations System flagship report on water, a comprehensive review of the state of the world’s freshwater resources.

arrow Visit the WWDR web site

arrow Visit the WWAP web site

JMP The WHO/UNICEF Joint Monitoring Programme on Water Supply and Sanitation reports utilize data principally from nationally-representative household surveys and censuses and provide an overview of populations using different forms of drinking-water and sanitation.

arrow Visit the JMP web site

arrow View / Download the JMP Report

GLAAS The Global Annual Assessment on Sanitation and Drinking-Water (GLAAS) reports on the capacity of countries to make progress towards the MDG water and sanitation target and on the effectiveness of external support agencies to facilitate this process.

arrow Visit the GLAAS web page

arrow View / Download the GLAAS 2010 Report

Want to share data or resources you have discovered?
Click Here to email us information we can share for the competition.

UNwaterforlife Click here to access a full list of the UN’s Water For Life publications. Valuable resources like The Little Green Data Book (below) can be found there.
greenbook (The) Little Green Data Book. World Bank. 2010 [Documento PDF – 2.20 MB] Cover of the Report Under the headings of agriculture, forests and biodiversity, energy, emissions and pollution, water and sanitation, environment and health, and national accounts aggregates, this document compiles 50 indicators for over 200 countries each year. Concerning water and sanitation, it offers information about the following indicators: Internal freshwater resources per capita; Freshwater withdrawal (total, agriculture); Access to an improved water source (urban and rural); Access to improved sanitation (urban and rural).

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Publications on Climate Change

Click here to download UNWater’s recent Climate Change Adaptation publication.

Other Climate Change Publications:

Click Here to Download Charting our Water Future a publication from the 2030 Water Resources Group

Charting our water future: Economic frameworks to inform decision-making shows that while meeting competing demands for water will be a considerable challenge, it is entirely possible to close the growing gap between water supply and demand. This report provides greater clarity on the scale of the water challenge and how it can be met in an affordable and sustainable manner.

Want to share data or resources you have discovered?
Click Here to email us information we can share for the competition.

Water Prices Data

Summary of Key Data from the 2008 GWI/OECD Global Water Tariff Survey

Summary of Key Data from the 2008 GWI/OECD Global Water Tariff Survey

Summary of Key Data from the 2008 GWI/OECD Global Water Tariff Survey

Want to share data or resources you have discovered?
Click Here to email us information we can share for the competition.


UN Water
The Water and Climate Bibliography is a searchable, online database containing over 3,000 references to books, articles, and other scholarly works.
The Circle of Blue Research page contains articles, research and photos on current water issues.
Federal source for science about the Earth, its natural and living resources, natural hazards, and the environment.
The National Science Foundation has a great statistics page and is also hosting a visualization challenge with Science magazine

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Past Visualizations

Infographics The Circle of Blue Infographics page contains our recent work.
Check out this Wired Science Gallery: 10 Stunning Science Visualizations from the 2010 International Science and Engineering Visualization Challenge sponsored by Science and the National Science Foundation.
Idea blog threeninetyeight compiled this list of 5 Fascinating Inforgraphics About Water
GOOD Magazine produces excellent infographics. Their Transparency: Water series features the infographic “Drink Up” has an ever expanding list of interesting infographics.
Want to share visualizations that you love?
Click Here to email us information we can share for the competition.


Special Reports

  •    Bulk Water Exports

  •    Reign of Sand

  •    Himalayas Melting

  •    Tehuacan

  •    China Karst

  •    WaterViews

  •    Asian Carp

  •    Biggest Dry

  •    Patagonia