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Water project in stretch run to learn how climate change is affecting Canada’s water

Three-year project began in 2021

February 12, 2024  By CAROLYN CAMILLERI


The project’s goal is to provide a comprehensive methodology for evaluating the sustainability of water resources. Photo credit: Serikbaib/Adobe Stock

Canada1Water (C1W) is a comprehensive data and modelling framework with an associated decision-support system to evaluate the sustainability of water resources in a changing climate. The ground-breaking project is a collaboration between Waterloo-based Aquanty Inc. and Natural Resources Canada, among other Canadian partners. 

C1W aims to answer a question that’s vital to our future: How is Canada’s groundwater-surface water system being affected by climate change now and for the decades ahead? Being able to answer this question is clearly important to virtually every industry and municipality in the country.

In the winter 2023 issue of Ground Water Canada magazine, “Water Data Not Seen Before,” provided background information on C1W’s origin and key players, as well as the aims of the project and the development of the technology. This article is a progress update. 

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The three-year C1W project launched in April 2021. Year one involved data assembly – a critical and complex step incorporating massive amounts of data from sources in all parts of the country. Year two focused on spin-up of C1W’s integrated, continental-scale hydrologic model using Aquanty’s HydroGeoSphere (HGS) platform. Initial outputs from this stage are expected by the end of 2023. 

The project is now in year three, which will see the production of two versions of the C1W model – one coarse and the other at high resolution – to support applications for the widest range of uses possible, including water well drilling and hydrogeology, community and government planning departments, farming of all kinds, and industries such as mining, agriculture, forestry, fisheries, and recreation. 

In other words, this breakthrough, made-in-Canada technology will support anyone who requires accurate, science-based information on surface and groundwater availability to make better decisions in a changing climate. 

“Water is a universal necessity for every person, community, ecosystem, and industry in this country,” says Brayden McNeill, Aquanty’s technical sales and marketing lead. “Despite having more freshwater resources than any other country, the absolute vitality of water to every facet of our life means that Canada cannot afford to rest on its laurels when it comes to the sustainability of water resources.”

Farming is an excellent example. A recent Agriculture Canada article, “Researchers protect environment, human and animal health with natural capital,” highlights how Aquanty’s water-modelling technology and C1W play a role in helping producers and watershed managers in South Nation Conservation Authority near Ottawa to respond to threats of drought and flooding.1 

The overarching goal of the C1W project is to provide a comprehensive methodology for evaluating the sustainability of water resources, including a means for environmental economists to use this data to gauge the economic benefits that water resources provide to Canadians.

Canada1Water project stages. The green background arrow indicates progress to date.

Forecasting groundwater resources
Currently, the C1W team is generating surface water, groundwater, and soil moisture projections using Aquanty’s HGS platform to identify regions that may be particularly stressed in the mid- and end-of-century time periods. For water well drillers, the ability to forecast groundwater resources across Canada over several decades can help determine how climate change might impact drilling operations.

“For example, if a region is set to experience significant groundwater decline, this means that drillers in the coming decades may have to drill much deeper to find economical sources of water for residential and industrial water supply,” McNeill says. 

The comprehensive and updated surficial soils map for all of Canada may also be of interest to well drillers.

“Our updated map expands the coverage area compared to provincial sources and we’ve maintained the highest possible resolution from all original sources,” he says. “In addition to the soil map itself, each soil type will also have a list of parameters associated with it, which may not be available from individual provincial sources.”

Canada1Water is a data and modeling framework aimed at evaluating the sustainability of water resources.

As anyone in the groundwater industry knows, the importance of Canada’s water resources cannot be overstated, especially as climate change brings increasingly intense weather events. As McNeill points out, climate change is already causing tremendous stress on communities across the country – ongoing drought across British Columbia, Alberta, and Saskatchewan over the past several years has led to major wildfires and impacts on the agricultural community; the increasing prevalence of extreme weather events has caused catastrophic flooding; changes in groundwater/surface water interactions have caused rivers and streams to dry up and habitat loss, etc.

“The Canada1Water project is a good start in evaluating the dangers that climate change poses to water resources and to Canadian society at large,” he says. “The groundwater industry, including water resources engineers, policy and decision makers, community planners, and so on – they will all benefit from a comprehensive modelling and data framework that will enable us all to mitigate impacts and adapt more effectively to the changing reality brought on by climate change.”

The initial development phase of the C1W project is due to wrap up on March 31, 2024, and McNeill says the web platform will be fully functional and live at that time, adding that they are currently providing early access to any available data set upon request. 

In the meantime, you can catch the latest C1W updates, including progress reports and the article “The science of seeing into the future: Canada’s groundwater” in Simply Science, Natural Resource’s Canada’s digital magazine, at https://www.canada1water.ca.

1 Agriculture Canada. “Researchers protect environment, human and animal health with natural capital.” Accessed Nov 13, 2023: https://agriculture.canada.ca/en/science/story-agricultural-science/scientific-achievements-agriculture/researchers-protect-environment-human-and-animal-health-natural-capital


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