Canada has an abundance of freshwater. Our belief in this abundance is deeply embedded in our culture, so much so, that a recent survey shows that Canadians are not inclined to spend tax dollars on water. However, the evidence doesn’t justify our confidence.
In the United States, the Endangered Species Act of 1973 (ESA) defines endangered species as “any species which is in danger of extinction throughout all or a significant portion of its range… “ and critical habitat as “the specific areas within the geographical area occupied by the species … on which are found those physical or biological features (I) essential to the conservation of the species and (II) which may require special management considerations or protection.” However, when the Endangered Species Act talks about conservation it refers to instruments such as: “research, census, law enforcement, habitat acquisition and maintenance, propagation, live trapping, and transplantation …” Those instruments may have been the best available at the time but times have changed.
Laboratory analysis of a water quality sample links a lot of data and metadata to a singular point in time and space. However, the objectives for monitoring may span spatial and temporal scales from point sampling (e.g. at an outfall) to watershed assessment (e.g. to characterize waters; identify trends; assess threats; inform pollution control; guide environmental emergency response; and support the development, implementation, and assessment of policies and regulations). Reconciling data- and metadata-dense analytical results with watershed-scale outcomes is a work-in-progress for many monitoring agencies.
The Great Lakes hold 21% of the world’s fresh surface water by volume. Only the right information today can ensure the sustainable use of these waters for generations to come. In North America, the Great Lakes account for 84 percent of fresh surface water. Today, these lakes are sourced for drinking water for over 40 million people. One and a half million U.S. jobs and $62 billion in U.S. wages depend on the health of the Great Lakes. While restorations efforts are progressing, climate change and water quality concerns still threaten their ecosystem. You’re invited to make a difference by participating in the 2016 Great Lakes Observing System (GLOS) Data Challenge!
We usually report water quantity information as a volumetric rate (e.g. m3/s); we usually report water quality information as a concentration (e.g. mg/l); and we usually report precipitation as a length (e.g. mm). But we don’t have to. The mass of water is related to its volume by its density which, conveniently, can be assumed to be unity (1). This means that we could just as easily report water information using the dimension of mass. Would reporting water information in a different dimension change the way that we understand water?
This past month, I had the great pleasure of attending a couple of new training classes offered by Aquatic Informatics. It was great to get to work with our outstanding AQUARIUS Support Team yet again. But it was also very exciting to interact with water quality professionals from all around North America.