|Abstract||Under the Clean Water Act and Source Water Protection Program the Ontario Government has spent 240 million dollars protecting potable water sources. This work focused on the implementation of a
multi-barrier approach to protection of municipal water supplies. There are, however, important groundwater issues that remain to be addressed; for example, groundwater flux to the Great Lakes and related groundwater quality, cumulative impacts on
sustainable groundwater supply, and implications of climate change on water levels. These issues are not confined to small areas of wellhead protection plans but require a regional, pan-Southern Ontario approach involving a multi-disciplinary
partnership across government, academic, and the private sector. A key ingredient is a framework for groundwater-related data that can be leveraged by all partners and that encompasses capture, storage, analysis, and dissemination of the data. The
framework must respect agency autonomy and mandates, for example related to data quality and regulation, while providing open access to the data to enable pan-agency scientific collaboration. |
Such a data framework has several components:
infrastructure for (re)hosting the data and/or enabling connection between existing repositories for distributed access to the data, standards for structuring and retrieving the data as well as protocols for using the data appropriately, agreements
about data content, such as selecting key datasets and identifying data gaps or data items requiring scientific upgrading, and tools for innovative investigation and presentation of the data to augment decision-making. The final component, involving
enhanced tools, is a continuing challenge in the age of big data, where it is becoming increasingly important to enable the analysis of increasingly large datasets and access to summary statistics that provide progress reports on our water resources.
The past ten years has seen an enormous change in the delivery of reporting from paper to digital PDF files, but such reporting remains trapped in the same paradigm as the hardcopy report. There is a need to develop new and advanced tools to
summarize data streams for non-specialists and to permit interrogation of the complex modelling results emerging from many groundwater studies. The first step in such development is web accessibility to many locked-away government datasets, as
facilitated by new Open Government Data Access policies, followed by advanced tools to operate on the liberated data.
Aspects of the above components are inherent in several existing systems, for example: the low water response initiative of the
Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry, the Oil, Gas and Salt Resources Library dataset, which is being used to construct a three-dimensional (3-D) model of the Paleozoic geology, and for unconsolidated sediment the Ontario Geological Survey and
Geological Survey of Canada are developing a reference stratigraphic index dataset to constrain 3-D surficial geology-mapping for the 70,000 km2 area of southern Ontario. These efforts will be leveraged by a new collaboration between provincial
ministries and Conservation Authorities to enable a broader groundwater framework for Southern Ontario.