Canada Water Agency: Government hopes to consolidate water data and management

Read the full story at Great Lakes Now.

Canada is home to the third largest renewable supply of fresh water in the world, spread across a vast swath of lakes, rivers, aquifers and glaciers. Fresh water is critical to the country’s economy and health, and a key part of the nation’s identity – paddling a canoe through northern waterways is a rite of passage, and more than 30% of Canadians live surrounded by water in the Great Lakes region.

And yet, experts say the country is suffering a drought when it comes to accessing data on water quality and quantity – essential for managing this crucial resource.

“It may surprise Canadians to hear it’s very hard to get your hands on water data,” said Carolyn Dubois, director of the water program at the Toronto-based Gordon Foundation, where her job is to improve community-based freshwater stewardship. “It isn’t for lack of data. It’s just that it lives in places and formats that are inaccessible, like filing cabinets and private servers.”

Dubois was speaking at a webinar about leveraging data to protect the country’s fresh water, hosted in September by the Winnipeg-based think tank, the International Institute for Sustainable Development.

“We’re missing the big picture,” added Scott Higgins, a researcher with the Experimental Lakes Area, a non-profit research centre in northwestern Ontario that assesses human impacts on whole aquatic ecosystems. “Data have been collected on behalf of the public, and often paid for by the public purse, but it’s not being put together.”

The result, said Higgins and Dubois, is that basic questions about water are unanswerable on a national scale. Which is why they, along with water management experts across the country, are now pinning their hopes for open and usable freshwater data on the soon-to-be-launched Canada Water Agency.

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