Looking Back At 2016 And What’s On Tap For Next Year

12/19/2016 | KELLY BENNETT

Looking Back At 2016 And What’s On Tap For Next Year
Kelly Bennett

Kelly Bennett | Co-Founder & President | Bio

t’s hard to believe I’m already writing down thoughts to sum up 2016. It feels like only a few months ago that I had the pleasure of sitting at a dinner table at the Colorado Water Congress Annual Convention with Justice Hobbs and his wife. That was last January, and in only a month, that same event will be upon us!

What a year it has been.

We launched Water Sage in Montana as our first state way back in 2014 with a mission to prove that we could aggregate and curate data to help people understand the relationship between water and land.  I don’t think that any of us expected that in only two years, we would serve such a diverse group of users in four different states, with many more on the way.

Over the last year, we took a step back from pursuing new states and implemented leading edge technology to unlock more data, features, and capabilities in the platform. The launch of our new generation marked a big milestone for Water Sage and for our company: no more Silverlight as a foundation, no more ‘other people’s’ plugins; Water Sage grew up into a real, proprietary, mature product and Ponderosa took a large step towards being in the software biz.  I still sometimes shudder at the thought of being a tech company, but the development strategy we chose was the only way to keep pushing the bounds of using and accessing our data. I couldn’t be prouder of what our team achieved. We laugh that it is nearly impossible to use the previous generation because we’ve come to rely on so many of the new features.  And there are many that launched this year.

Between our network of users and internal teams, the Water Sage community dreamt up a long list of needs, wants, and wishes.  The resulting product is remarkable, unique, and still evolving as more people use Water Sage to do more and more things. I’m particularly proud of a few big additions this year:

Saved projects. The ability to save projects to share with colleagues or refer to in the future has made it possible for our users to create their own dashboards within Water Sage, build demonstrative tools for decision making, and share institutional knowledge within their organization.

Interactive map features and analytics. Some data just doesn’t conform to the conventional datasets in Water Sage, but our interactive mapping layers create a powerful way to contextualize and access this information.  Our interactive analytical features, which we piloted in Water Sage Colorado, still amaze me with the deep insight they provide into water rights, stream flows, and administration.

More searches and more data. As we debated the pros and cons of different ways to build search features, a question kept coming up: ‘can’t I just see how many wells or water rights or gages or land parcels are in this area before I start searching for something specific?’ It led us to a solution that is intuitive, informative, and comprehensive.  I’ve never seen a natural resource information platform that gives a user the ability to search huge datasets with such flexibility.  To take it a step further, we added new spatial search tools that are built for business application and they are outstanding. Today, I pulled together all of the wells in a 748,000 acre area in Texas for a newspaper reporter on the fly. It was awesome.

2016 hasn’t just been exciting on the Water Sage technology front.  We have been fortunate to bring on a number of new subscribers from the engineering, legal, municipal, banking, federal, and non-profit spaces and have closed our third year of renewals with some of our very first users.  Water Sage is also now being distributed to a broad network of realtors in Montana through a partnership with the Gallatin Association of REALTORS, our first program of its kind.  We are incredibly proud and grateful to work with such a diverse and dynamic group of users in so many different states. Our subscribers’ many uses for Water Sage are so cool to hear about – they’re using Water Sage in ways we never imagined. It is humbling to learn that Water Sage is changing the way that people look at and communicate about water resources.

Ponderosa’s team has been busy in the subject matter consulting realm, too. The team’s deep knowledge of data and water and land resources is regularly put to work for more than just software development. We have supported legal research, conservation and municipal projects, data management, and investment strategy in a handful of states over the last year, delivering many projects directly through our technology.

So, as the year comes to a close and we start planning for 2017, the big question is, “what comes next?” The team is hard at work on a new suite of features and capabilities to address some big issues in the water space, like understanding the impact of drought and changing water availability on regions, people, and industries, and helping to illustrate how water gets from an aquifer or a snowy mountain top to a tap.

In the first quarter of 2017, we will be releasing Water Sage California and are planning to add four to five more states to our offering before the end of next year.  These development projects have already begun – we are collecting and analyzing data and interfacing with a variety of stakeholders at a local, regional, and national level. We are also gearing up for our first foray into building Water Sage for a state outside of the West. I cannot wait to see what we produce in our new suite of states; engaging with so many stakeholders has already been incredibly rewarding.

Our team is growing, our geographic areas of coverage are growing, and we seem to discover a new application for Water Sage every week. It’s just plain exciting. As the person who has the privilege of managing this venture, I have a lot to be grateful for. I’ve never worked with such an interesting and talented group of people or with such a wonderful community of clients. Thank you to everyone that has joined us on this journey so far – I can’t wait to see where it takes us in the new year.