Canada Water Act annual report for 2017 to 2018: chapter 2

2 Data collection and use

2.1  Water quantity monitoring

The National Hydrometric Program (NHP) is responsible for providing critical hydrometric data, information, and knowledge that Canadians and their institutions need to make informed water management decisions to protect and provide stewardship of fresh water in Canada. These data are available on the Wateroffice website. The Water Survey of Canada, which is part of Environment and Climate Change Canada (ECCC)’s National Hydrological Service (NHS), is the federal partner and primary operator of the NHP network in Canada.

The NHP is co-managed by the National Administrators Table (NAT) and the NHP Coordinators’ Committee, both consisting of members responsible for the administration of hydrometric monitoring agreements in each province or territory and one national administrator designated by Canada. Both groups met regularly throughout 2017-2018 to discuss program issues. Regular input from both groups and an annual survey by NAT provide valuable input on program operations, documentation and dissemination practices, and available training resources for the NHP.

2.1.1 National monitoring network

During 2017-2018, the national monitoring network of the NHP in Canada consisted of 2828 hydrometric monitoring stations (see Figure 2 and Table 1). During this period, ECCC operated 2193 of these hydrometric stations. Out of the ECCC-operated stations, 1144 were fully or partially federally funded. The remaining stations were operated by ECCC on behalf of provincial and territorial governments or a third-party interest, and cost-sharing was based on specific needs and requirements (see Table 1). In Quebec, the Ministry of Sustainable Development, Environment and the Fight against Climate Change operated 227 stations, some funded in whole or in part by the Government of Canada.

Figure 2: National Hydrometric Monitoring Network

Figure 2: National Hydrometric Monitoring Network
Description of figure 2

Figure 2 is a map of Canada indicating the location of 2828 hydrometric monitoring stations (see Table 1).

Table 1: Stations within the National Hydrometric Monitoring Network
Province/Territorya ECCC-operated
(by cost arrangement) federal
(by cost arrangement)
(by cost arrangement) province/ territory
(by cost arrangement) third party
Non-ECCC-operated (various cost arrangements) Total by province or territory
Alberta 77 157 160 33 54 481
British Columbia 47 180 212 1 7 447
Manitoba 22 85 109 2 178 396
New Brunswick 17 15 20 0 0 52
Newfoundand and Labrador 16 32 64 0 0 112
Nova Scotia 11 6 13 0 0 30
Northwest Territories 46 23 19 10 0 98
Nunavut 14 4 5 2 0 25
Ontario 125 69 337 10 43 584
Prince Edward Island 0 5 1 3 0 9
Quebec 16 0 0 0 227 243
Saskatchewan 91 51 13 0 126 281
Yukon Territory 10 25 35 0 0 70
Total 492 652 988 61 635 2828

a Hydrometric monitoring stations located within the boundaries of each province, no matter which office operates them.

b Cost-shared stations are those that are partially funded by the federal government, provincial/territorial governments, and third parties. The cost-share ratio varies by station.

Note: The network also includes a small number of designated International Gauging Stations located in the United States that are not included here as they support International Joint Commission activities not covered under the CWA.

There were no significant changes to the size of the national hydrometric network, although the network did undergo a number of adjustments, including the following:

Northwest Territories
British Columbia

All stations in Northern Manitoba experienced very high flow in 2017, with at least seven all-time high water measurements recorded. On June 7, a record high measurement was made at Churchill River below Fidler Lake: the crew measured 3,240 cm compared to the old record of 2,400 cm in 2005.

In Southern Manitoba, approximately 240 municipal roads and highways were closed due to water on roads, 330 people were evacuated with the most from Long Plain and Pequis First Nations. Four First Nations and sixteen rural municipalities declared local states of emergencies.

Atlantic region

2.1.2 Technology development

Hydrometric instrumentation and data collection

The NHP continued investment in new field technologies, including hydroacoustic equipment and advanced deployment platforms, such as bank-operated cableway systems and remote control boats, as manned cableways across the country are being decommissioned. There was also new investments in equipment for index velocity sites (sites where discharge is derived from both velocity and water level instead of water level alone).

The NHP is exploring the possibility of using non-contact techniques for both water level and flow monitoring, as well as testing radar sensors and video analysis techniques.  Work continued on refining current standard operating procedures and methods, and adopting new ones to ensure measurement techniques provide accurate and reliable data, while maintaining and improving safe work practices.

Surface Water from Space

While the Surface Water from Space project ended in 2016, the work was used in a 2017–2018 Radarsat Constellation Mission project to help identify the extent of open water.

Data dissemination

Phase 1 of the Hydrometric Data Management Integration and Renewal (HyDMIR) project was partially completed in 2016-2017, which migrated the real-time database to a more efficient and robust infrastructure in Dorval, QC. Phase 2 was launched immediately after Phase 1 to renew the Hydex (metadata) interface.

In April 2017, the Wateroffice delivered a new web service to facilitate the ability of provincial and territorial partners to download data automatically. This was run in parallel with the old web and email service to cover the flooding season of 2017. In September 2017, the old web service and email service were decommissioned along with the legacy infrastructure in Vancouver, B.C.

After-hours support was provided during the 2017 spring freshet to ensure real-time hydrometric data were available 24/7 during high water periods, such as the record-breaking peak flows on the Ottawa River.

The offline historical databases were released four times over the year: April, July, October 2017, and January 2018.

2.1.3 Program Development

Quality assurance

Following a series of external audits of hydrometric offices, processes and the management system, in early 2018 the NHP’s Quality Management System (QMS) was re-certified under the International Organization for Standardization’s new ISO 9001:2015 standard, as part of the broader Meteorological Service of Canada certificate. This achievement comes as the QMS is in the eleventh year, after a fourth recertification audit, and is valid for a 3-year period. ECCC also completed a “Fundamental Review” of the Quality Management System in 2017-2018, the outcomes of which include a redesign of the QMS process with an approach based on LEAN principles that will be implemented in 2018.

Updating of the Water Survey of Canada’s Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) continued in 2017-2018, in an effort to keep pace with changes in technology in the operational program. A much-needed upgrade was done to the hydrometric field manual on levelling, which was previously published in 1984. This new SOP outlines the methods used by the Water Survey of Canada for all levelling activities, including the assessment of benchmark and gauge stability and guidance on how levelling should be performed in all conditions.

Hydrometric science and development

In 2017–2018, ECCC continued to be heavily involved with the University of Saskatchewan, University of Waterloo, Wilfrid Laurier University and McMaster University through the Global Water Futures Program. This program explores ways to improve hydrometric program delivery through innovative technology such as drones and cameras.

Collaboration on hydrology modelling to improve the ability of the NHS to predict flows as part of its federal water management obligations was continued. ECCC has also continued collaborations with university colleagues in Quebec (L'Institut national de la recherche scientifique) in operationalizing hydrodynamic and ecohydraulic models in rivers of federal significance.

ECCC continued collaboration on the development of space-based monitoring technologies for hydrological monitoring in Canada with the Canadian Space Agency (CSA), the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), the University of Sherbrooke, the University of California, Los Angeles and other organizations in the United States. Work focused on the Surface Water Ocean Topography (SWOT) hydrology mission, scheduled for launch by NASA in 2021. This past year, the Canadian team, led through the NHS, tested appropriate ground-based and aerial infrastructure in various environments at key locations in Canada. NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory conducted a series of successful flights of the AirSWOT system over selected sites in Canada. Data for regions around the North Saskatchewan River, the Peace-Athabasca Delta and near the Mackenzie Delta were collected during the summer of 2017.

ECCC, in cooperation with the University of Manitoba, University of Victoria, and InnoTech Alberta, continued to support the national pilot project for an operational isotope network, in conjunction with the hydrometric network, which is similar to the existing isotope-hydrometric network in the United States. The goal is to demonstrate the value of systematic collection of river discharge, in tandem with analysis for oxygen-18 (18O) and deuterium (2H) across Canada. 


National Hydrologic Services support openness and interoperability of information and data access across various systems. NHS, working with ECCC’s Geospatial Web Service team, launched a project to make historical hydrometric data available in Open Geospacial Consortium compliant standards. The plan is to release more water quantity resource information, including station metadata and near real-time data.

2.2 Water quality monitoring

2.2.1 Freshwater quality monitoring

Freshwater quality monitoring has been a core program function of ECCC since the Department’s inception in the early 1970s. The Department’s monitoring and surveillance activities are critical for assessing and reporting on water quality status and trends, and for fulfilling many federal domestic and international commitments and legislative obligations. Much of the Department’s monitoring is carried out through federal-provincial/territorial agreements, ensuring cost-effective and non-duplicative program delivery.

The objectives of the federal-provincial/territorial water quality monitoring agreements are to:

Data are available on-line. Data are also used to support the freshwater quality indicator in the Canadian Environmental Sustainability Indicators (see section 3).

The long-term freshwater quality monitoring network consists of federal, federal-provincial and federal-territorial sampling sites across Canada (see Figure 3). Water quality samples are routinely collected at these sites for physical and chemical water quality parameters such as temperature, pH, alkalinity, turbidity, major ions, nutrients and metals. Pesticides and additional parameters of concern are also monitored where site-specific water quality issues exist.

Figure 3: Long-term water quality monitoring sites

Figure 3: Long-term water quality monitoring sites
Description of figure 3

Figure 3 is a map of Canada indicating the location of long-term water quality monitoring sites. The long-term freshwater quality monitoring network consists of federal, federal-provincial and federal-territorial sampling sites across Canada. They are situated in the following ocean drainage areas: Arctic Ocean, Atlantic Ocean, Gulf of Mexico, Hudson Bay and Pacific Ocean.

Since 2010, ECCC has adopted the Risk Based Adaptive Management Framework (RBAMF) to optimize its monitoring activities. The RBAMF is defined through a set of pillars that guide its various components. These pillars include defining monitoring responsibilities, identifying risks to water quality at monitoring sites and across Canada’s drainage basins, optimizing monitoring operations, and ensuring data quality and data access, which improves reporting outcomes. Program activities are framed by health and safety, to ensure workplace field safety and to provide a culture of excellence to continually deliver through clear goals, priorities, team collaboration, and increased efficiencies.

In 2017-2018, a series of national scale networks was developed (including Large Rivers, Large Lakes Priority, Transboundary Rivers, Reference, and High Stress) from existing long-term monitoring sites (Figure 3) and include a set of specific national monitoring objectives. As such, each network aims to improve comparability of monitoring data to more effectively report on water quality issues on a national scale.

ECCC’s Freshwater Quality Monitoring Program is aligned with Canada’s major watersheds (Arctic/Athabasca, Pacific, Hudson Bay and Atlantic watersheds). This program promotes robust water resource management across Canada.

For more information, please consult the Freshwater quality monitoring and surveillance website.

Arctic/Athabasca Watershed

ECCC continued to monitor 48 sites within the Arctic Watershed and across the North: 22 in the Northwest Territories, 14 in Nunavut, 2 in Yukon and 10 in northern Alberta. The majority of these sites are operated in cooperation with Parks Canada and include eight national parks (Auyittuq, Quttinirpaaq, Ukkusiksalik, Aulavik, Ivvavik, Tuktut Nogait, Nahanni and Wood Buffalo National Parks). Many of these sites are co-located with ECCC’s gauge stations.

Ten stations in northern Alberta and one in the Northwest Territories are monitored under the Oil Sands Monitoring Program in partnership with Alberta Environment and Parks. The monitoring work done under this plan is designed to track the cumulative effects of oil sands development in air, water, wildlife and biodiversity, which in turn can help inform governments and industry decision-making processes.

Many of the High Arctic sites are considered relatively pristine and, over time, provide an important baseline and reference for comparison with respect to long-range transport of atmospheric pollutants to high-latitude areas, as well as for any potential future influences from human activities in the North. ECCC also operates water quality sites on major rivers in the North, some of which are associated with transboundary basins (e.g., Mackenzie River, Slave River, Liard River) or are significant northern watersheds (e.g., Coppermine River, Thelon River, Great Bear Lake/River). Additional northern rivers are also monitored in the Yukon (see Pacific Watershed section, below).

Pacific Watershed

Monitoring is conducted in the Pacific Watershed (which includes parts of British Columbia and Yukon) under the Canada–British Columbia Water Quality Monitoring Agreement (PDF 2.15 MB)and under operational schedules agreed with the Yukon Government.

In British Columbia, ECCC conducts joint monitoring with the provincial Ministry of Environment at 41 river sites (including one automated site).  Water monitoring activities are negotiated annually and are documented in the Canada British Columbia Water Quality Monitoring Agreement Business Plan (2017-2018).

In the Yukon, 13 sites were monitored on rivers in collaboration with Environment Yukon including one automated site.

The Canada–British Columbia automated monitoring site located in the Fraser River Estuary is a monitoring buoy platform providing real-time water quality, meteorological, and grab-sample data to the public on ECCC’s Freshwater Quality Monitoring and Surveillance website. In addition, ECCC in collaboration with the Department of Fisheries and Oceans, the Okanagan First Nation Alliance and the British Columbia Ministry of Environment, deployed a real-time water quality monitoring buoy in Osoyoos Lake in 2017. Data generated from these automated sites are used to identify important trends and emerging water quality issues from urban, agricultural and industrial activities in the lower Fraser and Okanagan Basins.

In 2017–2018, ECCC, in cooperation with the Parks Canada Agency, operated five long-term water quality monitoring sites in the Glacier, Yoho and Kootenay National Parks in British Columbia and Kluane National Park in Yukon. These sites are relatively pristine and provide important reference information for comparison with sites influenced by human activities. Many of these sites are also located in key areas for assessing climate change.

Hudson Bay Watershed monitoring

As part of the national long-term monitoring network and in support of the Prairie Provinces Water Board Master Agreement on Apportionment, ECCC monitors 12 sites along the main rivers crossing between the Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba provincial boundaries. This work supports annual reporting on water quality objectives for nutrient, metal, major ion and pesticide parameters established by Canada, Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba. The water quality data and information obtained is also used to support the Lake Winnipeg Basin Program. Water quality data are routinely shared with partners and collaborators involved in the Lake Winnipeg Research Consortium, including the Province of Manitoba, other federal departments, universities and institutes working on Lake Winnipeg.

ECCC continued to work with Manitoba Sustainable Development under the Science Subsidiary Arrangement made pursuant to the Canada-Manitoba Memorandum of Understanding Respecting Lake Winnipeg and the Lake Winnipeg Basin. The agreement, signed in 2012, supports the development of science-related data, indicators and nutrient targets. Other key transboundary monitoring sites are located on the Red, Pembina, Winnipeg and Souris Rivers and on the Milk River–St. Mary River system. The Red and Souris Rivers, in particular, have encountered many water quality issues over time (nutrients, metals, pesticides, salinity). Water quality and water quantity issues on these rivers are addressed formally through the International Red River Board and International Souris River Board under the International Joint Commission (IJC). Regular monitoring updates were provided to these boards and to a number of institutional partners in 2017-2018.

All of the transboundary rivers in the watershed are monitored regularly (8 to 12 times per year). During the 2017-2018 open water season, the Red River was monitored more intensively (biweekly to weekly) to address concerns related to increased continuing water releases from Devils Lake (North Dakota) crossing the Canadian border, and to improve the nutrient loading estimates for Lake Winnipeg. Additionally, ECCC also operates an automated station on the Red River at Emerson, Manitoba, as a real-time alert system in the context of transboundary flooding and water quality monitoring. Real-time data were used to assess water quality changes due to increased Devils Lake water releases. In addition, the Red River was also monitored for a suite of current use pesticides, including neonicotinoids, carbamates (fungicide) and sulfonyl urea (herbicide) to assess transboundary contamination.

As an international and interprovincial transboundary waterway, Lake of the Woods is relatively unique in the number of jurisdictions and international organizations, such as the IJC, that have a role to play for successful environmental management. Local and national concerns with noxious and potentially toxic cyanobacteria (blue-green algae) blooms and declining water quality in Lake of the Woods prompted ECCC to address the science needs around this issue. As part of the international effort, ECCC has intensified science and monitoring efforts in the watershed that, in addition to baseline monitoring, includes more directed research efforts on algae, nutrient mechanisms, modelling and remote sensing.

In addition, under a Memoranda of Understanding with Parks Canada, sites in Banff, Jasper, and Waterton National Parks are sampled by ECCC. These sites provide water quality information to Parks Canada and are used as reference sites as part of ECCC’s long-term water quality monitoring program.

Atlantic Watershed

In the Atlantic Watershed, federal-provincial water quality monitoring is supported through:

Monitoring results generated by ECCC contribute to indicators assessing the status of the Great Lakes ecosystem for toxic chemicals in water, sediments and fish as well as indicators on the status of nutrients, water quality and algae.

In 2017-2018, sediment, water, and fish from the Great Lakes ecosystem were collected for analysis of nutrients, major ions, and toxic chemicals supporting Canada’s commitments in the Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement between Canada and the United States. These data were used in a comprehensive study of nutrient concentrations and loadings in the connecting channels from Lake Huron to Lake Erie to further the assessment of performance measures that have been implemented to reduce total phosphorus loadings to the Great Lakes. In June 2017, the most recent version of the triennial State of the Great Lakes Report was released.

The Canada–Québec Water Quality Monitoring Agreement was renewed in 2017 and covers 39 sites in the transboundary St. Lawrence River and its tributaries. In addition to the sites covered by this Agreement, ECCC operated 10 additional federal sites (including two automated) in the St. Lawrence River Basin. The sites were sampled monthly in 2017-2018 for physical parameters and nutrients, in addition to metals, pesticides and polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs) at some of them.

Under the Canada–New Brunswick Water Quality Agreement during 2017-2018, 10 federal-provincial sites were monitored. The sites are located on international and interprovincial transboundary rivers or their tributaries in the Saint John River (Wolastoq River) and Restigouche River watersheds. Four real-time automated sites in the Saint John River (Wolastoq River) watershed were also maintained by ECCC at the borders of the transboundary Big Presquisle River, Aroostook River and Meduxnekeag River and in the main channel at Evandale.

The International St. Croix River Watershed Board, under the IJC, plays an important role in managing water levels, water quality and fisheries between Maine and New Brunswick. The Board works collaboratively with stakeholders within the watershed by preventing and resolving disputes. ECCC monitored water levels at seven stations in the watershed and real-time (automated) water quality at two stations and provided input to the Board’s 2017 annual report to the IJC.

In 2017-2018, eleven sites were monitored under the Canada–Prince Edward Island Memorandum of Agreement. One real-time (automated) site was operated on the Wilmot River. In addition, pesticide surveillance was conducted during the growing season. The sites are distributed across the province, with data available on the Government of Prince Edward Island’s website.

In 2017-2018, ECCC managed 13 federal sites (including two automated sites) in Nova Scotia in support of the Canadian Environmental Sustainability Indicator pertaining to water quality. Nova Scotia Environment provided support on data collection. The sites are located across the province and cover major watersheds within the Maritime Major Drainage Area, including those flowing into the Bay of Fundy.

In Newfoundland and Labrador, 72 sites across the major drainage areas were sampled 4–8 times in 2017-2018. Data and station information from the sites are available on the Newfoundland and Labrador Water Resources website.

2.2.2 Biological monitoring

In addition to the physical-chemical water quality monitoring detailed above, ECCC also undertakes biological monitoring using benthic macroinvertebrates to assess the health of aquatic ecosystems.

The Canadian Aquatic Biomonitoring Network (CABIN) is a component of the Freshwater Quality Monitoring Program for assessing the biological condition of freshwater ecosystems in Canada using standardized data collection and analysis methods. This component, based on decades of research and development in many countries, has been adopted by multiple organizations across Canada. The success of CABIN results from collaboration and data sharing. It is led by ECCC’s National CABIN Team, which provides online data management, assessment tools and models, field and laboratory analysis protocols, certification and training, and ecological research and development. Network partners share their observations within the national database. CABIN partners include federal, provincial and territorial government departments, industry, academia, Indigenous communities, and non-governmental organizations such as community watershed groups. A CABIN Science Team, consisting of ECCC and external scientists with expertise in large-scale ecological monitoring, provides science advice and recommendations.

Since the early development of the CABIN monitoring strategy in the 1980s, data have been collected in over 10,000 locations across the country. In 2017-2018, data were collected at 921 sites in several sub-basins across the country by ECCC and its collaborators (see Figure 4).

Figure 4: CABIN monitoring sites

Figure 4: CABIN monitoring sites
Description of figure 4

Figure 4 is a map of Canada that shows the location of the CABIN monitoring sites across the country. In 2017–2018, data were collected at 921 sites in several sub-basins across the country by Environment and Climate Change Canada and its partners.

Pacific Watershed

In British Columbia, CABIN monitoring is jointly conducted under the Canada–British Columbia Water Quality Monitoring Agreement. Under this agreement, ECCC and the provincial Ministry of Environment collaborate on data collection for reference model maintenance and development and site assessment.

The eleven reference models available to all CABIN users to conduct biological assessments in watersheds in British Columbia and Yukon were developed collaboratively by federal, provincial and territorial agencies (i.e., Department of Fisheries and Oceans, the Canadian Coast Guard, Parks Canada, British Columbia Ministry of Environment, and Government of Yukon). Models are available for the Yukon River Basin, Fraser River/Georgia Basin, Skagit River Basin, Okanagan Basin, B.C. Central/North Coast, Northeastern B.C. and Rocky Mountains national parks models. In 2017-2018, ECCC collected CABIN data from 62 stream and river sites: 43 sites for reference model maintenance and development, and 19 sites for assessment of biological condition co-located at long-term physical-chemical monitoring sites.

Arctic/Athabasca Watershed

In the Athabasca watershed, under the Joint Canada–Alberta Implementation Plan for the Oil Sands, CABIN sampling was conducted at 55 sites in the tributaries of the Lower Athabasca River. The program also included biomonitoring sampling at 10 sites with five replicates in the mainstream of the Athabasca River using a modified CABIN approach for large rivers. Sampling sites in the Lower Athabasca River and its tributaries range from within the active oil sands development area (potentially impacted sites) to outside the development area as well as beyond any natural exposure of the bituminous geologic formations in the region (reference sites).  In 2017-18, CABIN sampling was also conducted in tributaries of the Peace River (three sites) as part of an expanded oil sands biomonitoring program that includes the Peace River Oil Sands area.        

Hudson Bay Watershed

In 2017-2018, ECCC revisited five sampling sites in southern Ontario as part of a comparative study with Ontario Ministry of Environment and Climate.  CABIN sampling was also conducted by ECCC in the Great Lakes using the CABIN Open Water protocol. Five reference sites for the Great Lakes Reference Study were sampled, as well as 12 sites in the Cornwall Area of Concern (AOC).

Atlantic Watershed

In the Atlantic Watershed, 188 stream and river sites were monitored by ECCC and its certified partners in 2017-2018: 173 in the Atlantic Provinces (134 by ECCC and other federal departments or parks; and 39 by non-federal partners) and 15 in Québec (10 in the St. Lawrence River and 5 in the Mauricie National Park), using CABIN sampling protocols. This work supported federal-provincial water quality monitoring agreements with New Brunswick, Newfoundland and Labrador, and Prince Edward Island.  The monitoring allowed partners to conduct assessments in transboundary watersheds (Saint John River [Wolastoq River], St. Lawrence River) and federal lands (i.e., national parks, Indigenous communities, and the Meaford and Gagetown Canadian Forces Bases).

Monitoring data collected also informed the Canadian Environmental Sustainability Indicators Freshwater Quality Indicator.  Research in the use of new techniques for assessing the suitability of aquatic habitat to support aquatic life, based on DNA collection was also conducted as part of a collaborative project with the Genomic Research and Development Initiative. In 2017, 70 sites were sampled in the Atlantic Provinces and DNA was sequenced.

2.2.3 Marine water quality monitoring

The Canadian Shellfish Sanitation Program (CSSP) is a federal program administered jointly pursuant to a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between the Canadian Food Inspection Agency, ECCC, and the Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO).

The CSSP objective is to provide reasonable assurance that molluscan shellfish are safe for consumption by controlling the harvesting of all molluscs (e.g., oysters, mussels, clams, scallops) within the tidal waters of Canada. The mutual concerns of Canada and the United States to protect the public from the consumption of contaminated bivalve molluscs led to the Canada-US Bilateral Agreement on Shellfish Sanitation on April 30, 1948 dealing with sanitary practices in the shellfish industries of both countries. This Agreement remains in effect and to maintain open trade, Canada is subject to periodic audits by the US Food and Drug Administration.

In 2017–2018, 496 shellfish growing areas were monitored in Canada (Atlantic: 245, BC: 136, QC: 115). Marine water sampling was undertaken through a combination of delivery methods in different portions of each province, including internal ECCC resources, outsourcing to private-sector contractors, federal-provincial water monitoring agreements and voluntary agreements with First Nations and stakeholders. Analyses for fecal coliform and salinity content determination were performed in ISO 17025-accredited laboratories. Across Canada, 26,474 marine water samples (Atlantic: 16,141, BC: 6,491, QC: 3,842) were collected at 6,811 stations (Atlantic: 3,512, BC: 2,074, QC: 1,225).

In addition to marine water quality determinations, sanitary shoreline investigations of point and non-point pollution sources were performed in 298 shellfish growing areas (Atlantic: 114, BC: 124, QC: 60). Related to waste water treatment plant assessments, 16 (Atlantic: 8, BC: 6, QC: 2) wastewater systems were evaluated or re-evaluated.  In addition, 2,940 (Atlantic: 653, BC: 2,200, QC: 87) environmental emergency events were reviewed and significant incidents were assessed to determine the need for emergency harvest area closures.

For more information about the Canadian Shellfish Sanitation Program, please consult the Canadian Food Inspection Agency website.

2.3 Hydro-meteorological modelling and prediction

For several years, researchers and scientists at ECCC and many partner organizations have used atmospheric and weather data as input for day-to-day operational forecasting models, and hydrologic data collected under the hydrometric agreements as input for hydrologic models. These models demonstrate how regional hydro-meteorological modelling can help improve water resources management.

ECCC continued to contribute internationally through its leadership as the Canadian hydrological advisor to the World Meteorological Organization’s Commission for Hydrology. This entails providing input and advice to the Commission on all matters related to hydrometric monitoring and hydro-meteorology. Specifically, the Department contributed expertise toward the development of techniques for uncertainty analysis in hydrometric measurements and on basic systems.

The Department continues to lead the Arctic Hydrological Cycle Observing System (HYCOS) initiative, which focuses on assessing freshwater fluxes into the Arctic Ocean. In 2017–2018, a draft web-portal was created to display streamflow and other data for all hydrometric stations in the Arctic-HYCOS network and allow filtering and downloading of the data according to extended metadata criteria (much of the data are also available online via the Global Runoff Data Centre. Work on summarizing and recommending international standards for collection of lake and river ice and water temperature observations continued in 2017-2018. The Arctic-HYCOS project steering committee will convene again in November 2018 to wrap up the initial work plan items of creating the network list and the web-portal, and will determine more advanced work to be done on customizing the database and increasing the availability of real-time discharge, temperature, and ice data available to the public.

Great Lakes

In 2017–2018, ECCC continued to improve methods for coupled hydro-meteorological modelling and prediction under an expanded environmental prediction framework. The model enables an improved understanding of interactions between the atmosphere and land surface, and supports improved water management in the region. ECCC is collaborating with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), and the U.S. Geological Survey to operationalize various modelling systems for historical analysis of the water balance in the upper Great Lakes.  After years of development by NOAA, in consultation with ECCC, a statistical model is now run every month using input from ECCC-MSC and other Canadian and U.S. agencies that determines the most likely values for the water balance components.  It is expected that this technique will increase our understanding of the hydrological functions and improve forecasting of Great Lakes water levels. 

Under the Coordinating Committee on Great Lakes Basic Hydraulic and Hydrologic Data, flow measurements and computation techniques for the St. Clair and Detroit Rivers continued to be updated to improve water balance accounting.

Hydrological and modelling experts in ECCC continued to develop models to estimate possible scenarios of river flow through forecasting. The operational forecast model is used by provincial flood forecasting agencies and testing of the model in the Great Lakes continued as researchers strive to develop a 10-day model. A pilot project was also started in 2017 to provide forecasted flows to Water Survey of Canada staff. The forecasted flows are expected to provide advance information for efficient planning of Water Survey of Canada fieldwork to capture important data for high flow events.

St. Lawrence River

Activities under the St. Lawrence Action Plan’s numerical environmental predictions working group continued in 2017–2018. The main activities of the group were:

These activities are done through the federal-provincial collaboration under the St. Lawrence Action Plan, and they support the main priorities of the plan (biodiversity, water quality and uses).

Other activities

ECCC provided support to many IJC water boards, committees and special studies in 2017–2018. This included establishing plans for special studies and development, testing and implementation of hydrologic and ecosystem models, and an adaptive management framework for the on-going review of lake regulation plans. ECCC continued to support IJC’s Lake Ontario St. Lawrence River Plan 2014, which is designed to provide for more natural variations of water levels of Lake Ontario and the St. Lawrence River to restore ecosystem health. This year implementation was marked by an unforeseeable and exceptional period of record rainfall and other weather challenges that resulted in record-high water levels and associated flooding and erosion around Lake Ontario and much of the St. Lawrence River. ECCC provided considerable support interdepartmentally and to other federal, provincial and local partners throughout the extreme water level event, providing daily water level briefings as well as ensuring effective communications to the public.

ECCC’s data and knowledge of the hydrology of the Great Lakes allowed them to play a key role in providing information to the Province of Ontario, conservation authorities, municipalities and the public in 2017-2018 on Great Lake water levels.  The record setting high levels seen on Lake Ontario in May 2017, along with relatively high water levels on all the other Great Lakes, created interest for more information on current and future water levels and the management of shorelines around the Great Lakes. ECCC provided information sessions and participated in planning meetings of interested governments and groups across the Great Lakes basin to aid in their management efforts.

ECCC, in collaboration with U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Detroit District, has built an Integrated Ecosystem Response Model for the St. Marys River rapids. The bi-dimensional Ecohydraulic model is being used to improve the spawning success of several fish species that use the swift water of the rapids for reproduction. This prototype will be extended to the entire St. Marys River.

ECCC continued to play a lead role in the Lake Champlain-Richelieu River Study, examining the cause of and possible mitigation measures to flooding issues in the Lake Champlain-Richelieu river basin.

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