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Friday, October 11 • 10:30am - 11:00am
Most Numbers Start With 1: Validating Water Use Data with Benford's Law

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Water use data are essential to managing water resources, but where most such data are self-reported or modeled, it is difficult to assess their accuracy. A curious, century-old observation known as Benford’s Law may help solve this problem. Benford's Law predicts the frequency of leading digits in numerical data. (About 30% of numbers start with 1, with decreasing frequencies for subsequent digits.) This research explores the conformity of water use data to Benford's Law and its potential applications to data validation. Potable water use data in the United States at system, county, and state levels were examined with statistical tests and visual inspection. Almost all were found to conform to Benford's Law. This finding could serve as a quality check on historical water use data as well as on projections and modeling results. Example applications are discussed.


Rob Sowby

Water Resources Engineer, Hansen, Allen & Luce, Inc.
Dedicated to advancing sustainable water supply, Dr. Rob Sowby is a water resources engineer at Hansen, Allen & Luce in Salt Lake City. His practice focuses on the planning, modeling, and energy management of public water systems. He has contributed to over 100 water projects throughout... Read More →

Friday October 11, 2019 10:30am - 11:00am MDT