How to use Google Earth to view map layers

How to view NPRI map layers using Google Earth™

  • File types used with Google Earth™ and other virtual globe softwares: Keyhole Markup Language (KML) and zipped KML files (KMZ).
  • System requirements to run Google Earth™: An Internet connection of at least 128 kilobits per second is required to run Google Earth™. Other system requirements may apply . If your system does not meet these minimum requirements, NPRI data can also be searched by location using the NPRI Datasets and Online Data Search.
  • Technical support for virtual globe software unavailable: Environment and Climate Change Canada is not able to provide technical support for any virtual globe software (including Google Earth™) or the NPRI KML and KMZ files. There are, however, considerable resources available on the Web regarding use of virtual globe software.
NPRI-Google Earth (Image of Canada)
Image copyright 2009 Google Inc.


  1. Download and save the map layers for use with virtual globe softwares (including Google Earth™) to your computer in KML or KMZ format.
  2. Once the file download is complete, open Google Earth™. To view the NPRI data, click on File, then Open, and select the file that you downloaded and saved. You should now see the facilities' locations on the map.
  3. On the Places panel on the left of the Google Earth™ window, you can see a list of the types of information that are available in the file which you have just downloaded. The file contains 2 sets of folders: the facilities are grouped by province in one and by industrial sector in the other.
  4. To see the facilities in a folder, click on the box beside the folder name. The facilities will now be shown on the map with a placemark. If you are viewing the sector layer, the placemark will be coloured according to industrial sector.
  5. To go to a specific location (city, province, territory, etc.), type the location name into the Fly to tab on the Search panel. You can also zoom in or out by using the slider at the top right of the map.
  6. Click on an individual facility name or placemark to see a summary of pollutant release, disposal and transfer information for that facility. To search by name for specific facilities that have reported to the NPRI, type "CTRL+F" and enter the facility's name into the search box that appears.
  7. Google Earth has many different language settings to choose from. If you would like to use another language for Google Earth™, follow these steps once Google Earth™ is running:
    • From the top menu bar, click on Tools and select Options.
    • A window will open with five tabs across the top; choose the General tab.
    • Under the heading Language Settings, there is a drop down menu with all of the language options available in Google Earth™. Choose your language of preference from this list.
  8. When viewing the Provincial map layer, the colour legend for industry sectors may show up in dull colors, making it difficult to distinguish the different industries. If you encounter this problem, follow these steps once Google Earth™ is running:
    • From the top menu bar, click on Tools and select Options.
    • A window will open with five tabs across the top; choose the 3D View tab.
    • Under the heading Texture Colours, uncheck the button next to Compress and click OK.
    • Close and restart Google Earth™: the legend should now appear in full colour.

Considerations when using NPRI geospatial data

Several map layers are available on the NPRI Datasets webpage for use with Google Earth™ or with open mapping services. Here are important factors to remember when using the mapping products:

  1. Using and interpreting NPRI data - The NPRI program makes a significant amount of information available. There are a few considerations to keep in mind when using the NPRI data.
  2. Accuracy of coordinates - A facility's "Placemark" may not fall directly on the facility in Google Earth™, due to difference in map projections or errors in coordinates. Information on NPRI geographic data quality is available here.
  3. Contact us for feedback and corrections to facility coordinates - How were you able to use this product in your organization or school? How do you think it could be improved? Do you have corrections to suggest for the latitudinal/longitudinal coordinates of a facility? Please contact us with your feedback.

Other programs' map layers

Canadian Environmental Sustainability Indicators (CESI)

The Canadian Environmental Sustainability Indicators (CESI) program provides data and information to track Canada’s performance on key environmental sustainability issues including climate change, air quality, water quality and availability, and protected nature. This program provides access to interactive maps, downloadable datasets, and map layers for use with virtual globe softwares: they can be downloaded here.

Commission for Environmental Cooperation (CEC)

The North American Commission for Environmental Cooperation (CEC) provides an atlas, a map viewer, shapefiles, and map layers for use with virtual globe softwares. These downloadable files plot over 33,000 industrial facilities in Canada, the United States and Mexico that reported pollutant releases and transfers for the latest year for which information in all three is available: they can be downloaded here.

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