Student story: A collaboration with Sharing Water

Sifa Mawiyoo, Cartography M.Sc. student from the 9th intake, shares how he supported the NGO Sharing Water with a project this summer semester.

The 2020 Summer Semester at TU WIEN was different, due to Covid19 and the change to online-based learning. During this time, I had the opportunity to work on a collaborative (remote) project for the map creation module coordinated by my lecturer Manuela Schmidt. The module aims to support students to make a very high-quality cartographic map for print on any topic of their choice. With my background in curating datasets for open data initiatives I agreed to focus my energy in sourcing and identifying useful datasets for a local organisation. The topic was set around an ongoing investigative art project on the use of water in European river systems across the continent titled SHARINGWATER. The project is co-led by Swiss Photographer Regina Hügli, Swiss Freelance Science Journalist Mathias Plüss and Visual artist, Performer, Director and Author Barbara Anna Husar.

The focus is centred on triple divide points and activities taking place down stream. Triple divides are physical locations that mark where three major watersheds meet. The selected triple divides included one in France at the Plateau of Langres, two in the Swiss Alps at Pass Lunghin and Witternwasserenstock while the last point is located in the Klepáč mountains between the borders of Poland and the Czech Republic. The collaboration was based on the desire to incorporate maps into the project material covering the political, ecological and cultural topics connected to water and water treatment.

Photo by Regina Hügli (Sharing Water)
Photo by Regina Hügli, Sharing Water

I started gathering data country by country with some amazing topographic maps from Switzerland to France. However the process quickly evolved to scraping continent-wide datasets on everything related to hydrological systems including, glaciers, groundwater reservoirs, rivers, elevation models and others. I aimed to share a go-to list of resources that SHARINGWATER would be able to look up for the maps that they might need in future.

For the map, I adopted styles popularised by John Nelson and his smooth sharp hillshade approach to layering relief data in ArcGIS Pro and blending satellite imagery for colour in Adobe Illustrator. The workflow was remade in QGIS that provided an open-source approach to creating similar maps using its built-in blend modes. This allowed me to demonstrate how SHARINGWATER would access the hydrological data and begin to make the maps they need with their graphic designer. The collaboration allowed me to explore European datasets, geo portals and approaches to building services around disseminating spatial data. In the end the map illustrated connections between major urban settlements and major rivers in the area that makes up the Witternwasserenstock triple divide on a beautifully textured basemap.

Photo by Regina Hügli (Sharing Water)
Photo by Regina Hügli, Sharing Water

Learning about service-oriented architectures and approaches to cartography design were some of the many practical skills and topics covered during the semester at TU WIEN that I really enjoyed working on. I am very happy that I got to work with Regina from SHARINGWATTER and contribute to their project in this way. Thank you to Manuela and everyone one who provided feedback about the map. I look forward to seeing the 2021 exhibition, book and their approach to visualising the data.

Sifa Mawiyoo, 9th intake

Sharing Water also reported about the successful collaboration at