Science and Activities

Look beyond traditional maps and data and find out how we are working to improve and facilitate access to surface water data.

List of subjects

Harmonization of Surface Water at the International Border

Harmonization of Surface Water at the International Border
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Example of a harmonized watershed at the Canada-US border between British Columbia and Montana, supported by a picture of the same watershed on Google earth

Water does not stop at borders. Management and analysis of water-related issues are effective when an entire drainage area contains all the data, even if it crosses a border.

To ensure the Government of Canada captures transboundary water, harmonization activities are done with collaborators and partners. These partners work at the provincial, territorial and international levels, including the International Joint Commission, which supports the harmonization activity since 2013.

It is because of harmonization efforts that the Government of Canada can offer complete drainage areas.

The GeoBase Surface Water Program (GeEAU) team integrates this data into our National Hydrographic Network (NHN) for the benefit of Canadians.

Revitalizing the Product and Adding Analytic Services

Revitalizing the Product and Adding Analytic Services
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An overview of the Champlain-Richelieu region in Quebec, where different types of analysis services are tested.

The National Hydrographic Network (NHN) was officially launched in October 2007. Since then, user needs, technology and international standards have evolved significantly. We are working on the revitalization of the product by considering Open Geospatial Consortium (OGC) standards, HY Features standards, new technology such as LiDARFootnote * and comments from our users.

Their comments prompt us, amongst other things, to develop data analysis and navigation services.

The Champlain-Richelieu region of Quebec is the region that allows us to test different ideas with our users.

Linked Open Data

Female finger typing on a mobile GPS

Traditionally, access to hydrographic data is from downloading and web services.

This approach limits data discovery and forces users to download and integrate many datasets. This has impacts on the effectiveness and value of links between data from different sources and ultimately on the applications and science that can result.

The Linked Open Data is a completely new approach. It is based on the publication of data and their links on the Internet, which allows a user to explore them directly from a browser.

Hydrographic data is being used in a pilot project conducted by the Geological Survey of Canada, which is testing navigation and relationships between surface water, groundwater and hydrometric stations in a web-compatible data format.

The Champlain-Richelieu region is also used for this pilot project.

Lake Winnipeg Basin Initiative

Lake Winnipeg Basin Initiative
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Map showing the extent of the Lake Winnipeg Watershed initiative, covering nearly one million square kilometers and encompassing four Canadian provinces and four US states. Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba and Ontario in Canada, then Montana, North Dakota, South Dakota and Minnesota in the US

Lake Winnipeg is the tenth-largest freshwater lake in the world and the sixth largest in Canada. The Lake Winnipeg watershed covers nearly one million square kilometres, encompassing four Canadian provinces and four American states.

Lake Winnipeg basin initiative is a multi-partner project aimed at restoring the ecological health of Lake Winnipeg, which has deteriorated due to the existence of excessive nutrients (phosphorus and nitrogen).

As part of this initiative, five watersheds of the National Hydrographic Network are being updated using satellite imagery, orthophotos and LiDARFootnote * technology.

Updating of this data is necessary to fully understand the dynamics of Lake Winnipeg tributaries. The data is integrated and available into the National Hydrographic Network (NHN).

Automatic water features extraction

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Map showing automatic extraction from LiDARFootnote * data

Canada's territory is constantly changing. Human activities, bank erosion and climate variation have a significant impact on the shape and extent of lakes and rivers.

Several issues such as floods monitoring or lake health analysis require accurate and up-to-date data to be able to respond appropriately. The advent of technologies such as LiDARFootnote * or high-resolution imaging provides access to more accurate and up-to-date sources of information.

From these new sources, the objective of the Water features extraction Project is to develop automatic methods for extracting lakes, rivers and other water-related entities, as well as the production of hydro enforced digital elevation models. It will then be possible to speed up and improve the updating of water-related information.

Climate change: improving the resilience of Canadians in flood zones

Floods are the most common and costly type of disaster in Canada. Emergency Management Organizations (OGUs) require fast and robust estimates of potential impacts during a flood to better anticipate and organize activities around response and recovery. Questions during these events are many: which neighborhoods will be flooded and in what order? What could be the impact of a heavy rain? What routes will be accessible (roads, bridges) and for how long?

NRCan is currently developing an analytical model combines the road network and our hydrographic network including the relief of the ground to predict where the water will go if the level of water increases. These answers help better manage first responder intervention and inform all levels of government responsible for public safety.

water levels
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Map simlutaing water levels with a shaded relief background map showing the Gatineau region. The simulation makes it possible to identify possibly affected buildings (orange) by a flood at this water level.

Gatineau floods
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Aerial photograph taken during the 2017 flood events in Gatineau, Qc. (Photo taken as part of Transport Canada's National Aerial Surveillance Program)

National Elevation Data Strategy: 3D Data

Elevation data is critical for many analyses including hydrology. Legacy products such as the Canadian Digital Elevation Model (CDEM) and Canadian Digital Surface Model (CDSM) distributed by NRCan no longer meet current needs. As a result, the Canadian Council on Geomatics has identified a need for improved national coverage of high precision / resolution elevation data.

The goal of NRCan's National Elevation Data Strategy is to increase the coverage of high precision/resolution elevation data in Canada. This strategy includes financial and technological collaborations with various partners such as other federal departments, provinces and territories, industry and academia.

The acquisition of elevation data for national coverage is done in two ways. In the North, due to lower presence of vegetation and urban infrastructure, elevation data from satellite imagery is used. In the South, elevation data from LiDARFootnote * technology is required because of its high accuracy and its ability to capture information in a vegetated environment as well as in an urban environment.

The resulting data from this strategy is available free of charge as part of the Government of Canada’s High Resolution Digital Elevation Model (HRDEM) product.

canadas elevation
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Poster showing Canada's elevation data acquisition strategy.