SOWC’s recent Waterloo Watershed Node event “Smarter Watershed Management” featured a panel discussion and preview of the data platform SOWC is implementing. The discussion provided potential partners and end-users with their first technical introduction to the developing platform. The goal was to further stimulate interest, connections, and seek input particularly from proposed end-users about the development of the data platform and the opportunities it presents.
Panelists included Dr. David Rudolph, Professor of Earth and Environmental Sciences at the University of Waterloo and Watershed Node leader; Odum Idika, Facility Manager for the Watershed Node; Geoff Riggs, Global Business Services Business Development Manager in the Smarter Planet program at IBM Canada; Lisa Trevisan from the Ontario Ministry of Environment; and George Sousa and Sandra Cooke from the Grand River Conservation Authority.
Two brief overview presentations led the discussion:
Odum Idika presented an overview of the Watershed Node Platform:
From Data Collection to Visualization
George Sousa and Sandra Cooke provided an overview of GRCA:
How Data Supports Watershed Management
Currently, researchers are piloting a sophisticated data platform supported with IBM software that will capture data collected through innovative sensor networks within the Alder Creek sub watershed of the Grand River, a ‘living laboratory’ for the SOWC Watershed Node. Invested by IBM Canada, the data platform is helping our world become ‘smarter’ when it comes to watershed management.
IBM Canada, as part of its Smarter Planet initiative, has partnered with SOWC in a collaborative effort to accelerate the development of water monitoring and management technologies. IBM is the major private funder for the SOWC, contributing over $20 million of hardware and software to the project.
“This is a Canadian-first platform for integration, visualization and analysis of watershed-scale hydrologic processes with specific focus on the influence of urbanization and associated land use management in watersheds under various degrees of urban development,” said Geoff Riggs, Global Business Services within the Smarter Planet project at IBM Canada. “It is a global IBM reference point for integrated total-system monitoring and management of watersheds.”
Like never before, the big tools being implemented through new technologies within these studies are allowing researchers to manage, analyze and present the mass of data in near real-time to derive new insights.
“Historical data simply lacks a lot of important information,” said Lisa Trevisan, Manager of Water Monitoring within the provincial environment ministry’s Environmental Monitoring and Reporting Branch. “We have the data, but for example, we don’t know what the environmental conditions were that day. The type of data platform being developed here can aggregate all of this information, leaving us with the evidence needed to make more informed decisions.”
These sentiments were reaffirmed throughout the discussion.
“In the past, watershed-scale research has been limited by our lack of ability to capture hydrologically-integrated data sets at the spatial and temporal density needed to more completely understand the system processes, ” said Dr. David Rudolph, professor of Earth and Environmental sciences at the University of Waterloo. “The sophisticated software and hardware that we are developing today permits us to collect a tremendous amount of near real-time information to analyze and interpret a watershed, allowing us to make new discoveries.”
Within the Alder Creek watershed, which covers an area of approximately 80 square kilometers, SOWC has installed over 100 sensors which are collecting, at a minimum, 150 data points every 15 minutes. This infrastructure will include sensors installed within the watershed that not only respond to environmental events automatically, but communicate with one another when events occur – drastically improving on traditional monitoring techniques. As an example, if a sensor within the watershed encounters an unusually high amount of rainfall, it will send a signal directly to other devices within the network to increase their sampling frequency in order to capture that hydrologic event with unprecedented resolution.
“The purpose of the data platform project is to design a monitoring network that captures sensor data from remote locations and uses cutting-edge communications software that transmits the information into a high-performance computing environment,” said Odum Idika, SOWC Watershed Node Facility Manager. “Through innovative research and technology, the data platform will incorporate responsive communication between sensors within the network based on environmental events within the watershed.”
“Initially, users of our data platform will be able to quickly access key information regarding relevant activity/responses of the watershed including turbidity levels, flow rates, ground and surface water levels, corn heat units, geographic precipitation and evapotranspiration,” continued Idika. “Our platform is being built on a powerful and flexible framework which includes an open Application Programming Interface to allow for applications such as forecasting and modeling to be developed. Furthermore, IBM’s Intelligent Operations for Water software will be able to ingest other data streams while incorporating metadata to enable proper data identification.”
The session also recognized the extensive work that the Grand River Conservation Authority is already doing to monitor the watershed and make data available. Real-time water quality information is collected to aid in the day to day decisions related to the operation of water control structures operated by the GRCA. This information is also used to report on current water quality conditions in specific river reaches and to calibrate and verify water quality models used for long range watershed planning.
“Working partnerships with researchers play a crucial role in identifying emerging issues and addressing science gaps, while at the same time presenting tremendous opportunity to leverage expertise that can influence future management decisions,” said George Sousa, GRCA’s Manager of Information Systems and Technology. “We have developed collaborative networks with researchers who leverage the GRCA’s monitoring data, information and collective understanding of the watershed to support substantive research initiatives, such as the SOWC.”
Access to GRCA monitoring facilities also enhances the SOWC platform which includes instrumented subwatersheds for smart monitoring in both the Grand River watershed and the very urbanized Mimico Creek subwatershed in Toronto. Use of GRCA and SOWC facilities will be of value to companies wishing to demonstrate their technologies in real-world environments within the watershed. It will save significant time and money for SOWC users who would otherwise need to obtain land access, build infrastructure and work through environmental and other approvals.
Like the other elements of SOWC, the data platform is also meant to be a tool to facilitate innovation and demonstration of new technologies and approaches. The question “How can this platform help you do your job better?” was posed to the audience. The discussion addressed user needs, functionality, opportunities to utilize historical data, real-time applications and flexibility of the platform.
If you are interested in learning more about the watershed monitoring platform or the data platform, please contact the SOWC.