Predicting water quality in Canada: mind the (data) gap
Miller, CB and Cleaver, A and Huntsman, P and Asemaninejad, A and Rutledge, K and Bouwhuis, R and Rickwood, CJ, Predicting water quality in Canada: mind the (data) gap, Canadian Water Resources Journal, 47, (4) pp. 169-175. ISSN 1918-1817 (2022) [Refereed Article]
CanmetMINING, Natural Resources Canada, is in the process of developing a nation-wide baseline water quality database that compiles datasets from 14 different federal and provincial governments, water boards, conservation authorities, and private companies across the country and is continuing to expand. The objective of this project is to evaluate spatial and temporal changes in water quality and model the impacts of climate change on baseline water quality, now and into the future. To date, this project has standardized and aggregated more than 800,000 water quality records from more than 16,000 unique sampling sites, spanning 8 decades. This two-year process has highlighted a number of challenges with compiling a nation-wide database for research applications under the current model of water quality reporting in Canada. In light of these challenges, this commentary will highlight our observations as well as provide insights to inform future standardization of water quality reporting. This is particularly timely given the proposed development of a Canada Water Agency (CWA), whose goal is to promote collaboration between water management authorities, subject matter experts, and citizen scientists to "keep our water safe, clean and well-managed". This commentary provides insightful observations and lessons to support the ongoing development of the Canada Water Agency, a national data management strategy, and the future of water quality monitoring in Canada.