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Local Districts across Great Lakes Manage Water Quality & Flooding Risks in Cost-effective Co-op

London, ON, Canada

At a Glance

Ontario law establishes 36 Conservation Authorities (CAs) to manage natural resources & environmental health on a per watershed basis. About 20 CAs have formed 2 hubs that manage the full spectrum of data, provide access to IT innovations & data from other CAs, and support regional coordination.

Problem Addressed

All CA are tasked with similar responsibilities but each one varies in size and resources. By agreement, large and small hub members transparently share data collected by each monitoring network as well as an IT solution that equally facilitates efficient data management and advanced analyses.

Stream flow and meteorological observations collected by all members are critical for flood forecasting, warning, and evacuation, if necessary.

Some conduct water sampling more frequently. Others perform ecological assessments of living organisms within specific water-courses.

Hub members can combine information on water levels, land erosion and sediment transport, lab analyses, and the presence of particular species. The holistic view of a single watershed deepens understanding of its health and impacts, which may be caused by human activities, mitigation by restoration, or nutrient reduction initiatives.

Eastern & Western Ontario Conservation Authority Hubs used/is using Water Information System by KISTERS (WISKI) to address this/these challenge(s).

Solution(s) Used

Using a centralized database & analytics platform ensures long-term record-keeping and secure storage of data sets. The full spectrum of data spans a wide variety of formats and frequency:

* continuous data from approx. 2000 stations in daily, hourly, 15- and 5-minute increments

* discrete water quality sampling events and meta data to support QAPP

* geospatial (GIS) data

* satellite / remote sensing imagery (meteorological forecasts)

Significant automation of data quality-control, processing, and reporting tasks enables time-savings among the personnel at each member CA. CA staff can reliably access quality information via web services. Each approved users can select information from a particular CA and parameters of interest, in order to display and analyze via graphs, tables, and maps.

Alternatively, Districts with staff with GIS skills can work with the data within arcGIS software by Esri.

Outcomes

  1. Small districts receive data from beyond their jurisdiction. Network expansion & task automation yield more lead time for flood forecasting, warning, and evacuation, if necessary.
  2. Specific water quality sampling & biological surveys performed by some members can provide insights to members who desire a holistic view of a watershed to assess its environmental health.
  3. Ag & urban development cumulative impact calculations, data visualization layouts, report templates, and more are easily shared among members.

Lessons Learned

  1. Supported by a 3rd party, the platform minimizes knowledge loss due to turnover. A peer-based user group fosters best data practices and arranges ongoing training with KISTERS.
  2. On occasion, as requests for consulting or new features arise, members collectively prioritize their goal(s) and implement cost-sharing.
  3. Much equity exists within hubs yet identification of a dedicated CA to lead or perform system administration duties (and/or project management) is extremely beneficial.

Something Unique

Hub members have many commonalities yet each retains different initiatives & needs for territory in its care. One CA can choose to apply models to data to predict flooding & respond with green infrastructure plans. Another district may integrate multiple data sets and apply more stringent QA/QC rules.

Who Should Consider?

Districts who want to collaborate on climate resilience and share quality data for decisions. Within hubs, agreements about data standardization & sharing were already reached before IT selection & deployment.