People now have information about the health of the great lakes waterways right at their fingertips. Great Lakes DataStream is a new online platform which offers seven million points of water quality data from across Ontario and Quebec.
"From daily COVID-19 rates to water quality at the beach, we're seeing a global trend towards more data being made accessible to everyone", explained Carolyn DuBois, who heads Great Lakes DataStream. "Open data is powerful – it helps people make more informed choices."
Everything from water temperature and how it's changing over time. It can include data on nutrients. Nutrient runoff is often an issue and can lead to agae blooms. So there's lots of nutrient data on data stream. You'll find things like PH," she explained.
"Environmental challenges that affect fresh water include everything from development and some of the pressures that are put on water systems to climate change. It's really important to understand how our waters are adapting and reacting to some of these changes. And it can point to solutions to ensure that we can protect the water that we depend on," she said.
Because DataStream is open access, anyone, including scientists and policymakers, can explore the data while being confident in its integrity thanks to blockchain technology. Just last year, data accessed on DataStream helped fill gaps in the WWF Watershed Reports.
"Having the ability to dig in, and look, and try to understand water quality through data can be a very empowering experience," explains Larissa Holman of Ottawa Riverkeeper, one of many water monitoring groups to have shared their data on the platform. "The power of providing people with relevant information about their local waterway should never be undervalued. It can be an incredible way to motivate them to either protect or to improve it."
"Behind every data point is a person," says DuBois. "We work with community-based monitoring programs, Indigenous Nations, watershed groups, and all levels of government. We're excited to be working with passionate water champions from Thunder Bay to Montreal."
With Great Lakes DataStream joining existing data hubs in the Mackenzie River Basin, Atlantic Canada, and the Lake Winnipeg Basin, DataStream is Canada's largest independent water data platform – with data from 12 of Canada's provinces and territories.