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Diving Deep Into Data: Power BI and Folsom Lake

Published: 3/23/2017 Author: Bradley Burch

​Let’s start by us sharing something about us… We love data!

A couple weeks ago, I was driving across Folsom Lake Crossing and I looked at the water flowing out of the gates at Folsom Dam. It was great to see that the lake levels were on the rise and that we may be in for a higher than normal lake level later this summer. But I had a question, what’s normal? How much water is typically in the lake this time of year?

Well, knowing that the data was out there, I did a quick Google search and landed on the California Data Exchange where I was able to find lake elevations, inflows and outflows for the Folsom Lake Reservoir. Unfortunately, the data is presented in a static table on a webpage which makes it difficult to identify the changes in lake elevation. It’s hard to pinpoint when the lake is at its highest and lowest levels and even more challenging to compare lake levels year over year.

Modern business intelligence tools provide us a unique opportunity to take open data and create visualizations that tell stories and deliver details that are hard to extract from lines of data in a spreadsheet or buried in a table. These solutions are being used across many industries to analyze big data. Being able to visualize data is a true game changer. Here are 3 things you can expect when you invest in these business intelligence tools.


If your organization is tasked with delivering information to constituents, there isn’t a better way to deliver your information than in an easy to read, easy to understand visual. The visual representations of data in Microsoft’s Power BI are brilliant. Here is an example of how volumes of data can be transformed into something more accessible.


The Microsoft Power BI tools are easy to use and allow users to point the solution at a data source and generate true business intelligence. The self-service nature of Power BI empowers users to take static data and build rich visuals that tell a story, identifies trends and ultimately help organizations make better business decisions.

Interactive Dashboards:

Data presented in a graphic-rich dashboard helps organizations analyze data in a new and more intuitive way. In the dark ages of data analysis, staff would have to peel through volumes of data and create charts and graphs to construct a narrative. This process was time consuming and didn’t even allow for up-to-date, real-time dashboards. Power BI enables teams to simply point the BI solution at data and generate dashboards that deliver real-time data analysis.

So – Back to Folsom Lake. We applied a little Kiefer magic to the data provided by the California Department of Water Resources (DWR). We did a little transformation and formatting to the data from California Data Exchange and pointed Microsoft Power BI at the data. And, Viola… Look at what we built.

Predictive Analytics:

Analytics and data visualization can give you greater insight into trends. These trends may can help you uncovering patterns in your data that may suggest future outcomes. In our evaluation of Folsom lake reservoir levels, it became clear that the lake levels are higher in May, June, July and April.

These data visualizations were built with Power BI and tell the story of:

  • Lake levels since 1992
  • % of capacity since 1992
  • The highest and lowest lake levels since 1992
  • The drought years since 1992
  • Trends that show the months where lake levels are at their highest

Let us know what you think of the Power BI solution and what we’ve been able to do with data. If you are interested in talking with about Power BI and how it can be leveraged in your organization, please contact us. Our Power BI practice managers will be happy to show you the power of the Power BI solution.







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