Transforming Canada's water monitoring program
The management of Canada’s water resources is a shared effort among different levels of government. The National Hydrological Service (NHS) is a collaborative, cost-shared program between the federal government and all provinces and territories. It provides for the collection, interpretation, and dissemination of surface water quantity data and information in support of decision-making domestically and internationally. The NHS is also responsible for water management of international and domestic transboundary water in partnership with the International Joint Commission and the provinces and territories.
- provinces, territories and stakeholders
- the public
- the activities of international and interprovincial boards and commissions involved in managing Canada's water resources
Using existing and ongoing resources, as well as the additional Budget 2018 investment, Canada is modernizing the NHS by:
- updating and improving water measurement equipment
- increasing its technical and engineering capacity to run the NHS program
- maintaining accurate and timely water level and flow measurements for Canada’s rivers and lakes in a digital age
- investigating innovation in measurement technology and data quality to enhance monitoring and services into the future
- developing new real-time water models and prediction systems to better predict and monitor Canada’s water resources in support of federal interests and obligations
A modern NHS allows for informed water management decisions by stakeholders, including:
- provincial and territorial flood forecasts
- drought monitoring
- more efficient water supply allocation
- more efficient economic and resource development
These investments will contribute to reducing risks to both human health and the environment.
This program builds upon recent investments in weather supercomputing and forecasts systems. This leads to more reliable predicting of inland water-related events for use by:
- governments (federal, provincial, territorial, municipal)
- emergency management organizations
The program contributes to all 13 goals set out in the Federal Sustainable Development Strategy (FSDS). It will also support the United Nations 2030 Agenda and its Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) as follows:
Effective action on climate change: modernize data systems to understand how climate change is affecting the health of lakes and rivers and how it puts pressure on Canada’s water resources. This will also support SDG 13 Climate action.
Greening government: research activities that can make NHS field operations more modern and efficient and reduce their environmental footprint. These actions will also support SDG 12 Responsible consumption and production.
Clean growth: provide information that contributes to making sure that water-dependent sectors have the water that is needed and encourage innovation related to how these sectors use water. This will also support SDG 9 Industry, innovation and infrastructure.
Modern and resilient infrastructure: provide information that contributes to ongoing investments to infrastructure by all levels of government, the private sector and the public. It will help them remain functional in the face of water-related events including floods and storms. This will also support the SDG 9 Industry, innovation and infrastructure.
Clean energy: provide continued access to accurate and reliable real time data on water quantity to ensure continued safe operation of hydroelectric and nuclear energy generation. This will also support SDG 7 Affordable and clean energy.
Healthy coasts and oceans: provide information that supports safe navigation and the operation of wastewater facilities in rivers that are connected to coastal ecosystems and the oceans. This will also support SDG 14 Life below water.
Pristine lakes and rivers: help to preserve rivers and lakes by ensuring that correct data and information on water flow and level continues to be available to inform decisions relating to safe navigation, the design and operation of wastewater facilities, environmental assessments and enforcement activities. This will also support SDG 6 Clean water and sanitation.
Sustainably managed lands and forests: contribute to monitoring and understanding the water cycle and the impacts of climate change on Canada’s ecosystems to help manage lands and forests sustainably. This will also support SDG 15 Life on land.
Healthy wildlife populations: provide water data and develop water prediction capacity to support informed and effective wildlife management interventions. This will also support SDG 15 Life on land.
Clean drinking water: making water quantity information available to support interventions that may be required to preserve or restore the quality of water in communities impacted by water pollution. This will also support SDG 3 Good health and well-being and SDG 6 Clean water and sanitation.
Sustainable food: provide water data and enable the water quantity prediction systems to better understand the water cycle including flood and drought to support the sustainable management of Canada’s agricultural sector. This will also support the SDG 2 Zero hunger.
Connecting Canadians with nature: support safe enjoyment of outdoor activities by ensuring that water quantity data continues to be available to the public. This will also support SDG 11 Sustainable cities and communities.
Safe and healthy communities: ensure that water quantity information continues to be available to support water management decisions for the well-being of Canada’s communities. This will also support SDG 11 Sustainable cities and communities
Canada's water resources are important for:
- a diverse and complex natural ecosystem
- many water-dependent economic sectors and activities
The changing climate will intensify weather extremes leading to water variability across the country. For example, increased severity of heatwaves will lead to droughts, while more intense rainfall will increase urban flood risks. This change in availability and distribution of water is having effects on economic sustainability, public safety and national security. This can be through:
- the ability to grow crops
- produce power
- protect communities from floods and wildfires
Water-related disasters have a direct impact on:
- the environment
- economy prosperity
Protecting Canada's water resource starts with the following:
- knowing where the water is
- where the water is going
- predicting how the water may behave
- using knowledge to inform water management decisions
Stakeholders and Canadians need to have access to timely and reliable water quantity and distribution information for decision-making. Monitoring and reporting on the progress of this program, and its contributions to SDGs and FSDS goals will be conducted through existing mechanisms and reports.
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