Aqua Forum co-organizes panel webinar: How the Canada Water Agency can incorporate data and innovation considerations

By Carmen Joy King September 25, 2020

Aqua Forum is part of the Water Security for Canadians Initiative which is supporting the establishment of the Canada Water Agency. In the lead up to the Speech from the Throne on September 23, Aqua Forum joined 38 other leading water organizations in signing a letter to the Prime Minister calling for national leadership for water in Canada. Following the Speech from the Throne, Aqua Forum applauded the federal government for unveiling a blue and green recovery plan.

Aqua Forum also co-organized a panel discussion on September 17 alongside the International Institute for Sustainable Development (IISD) and the Gordon Foundation to discuss how data systems and technology can improve our management of freshwater systems and foster innovation in the water tech sector. Speakers included Melissa Dick (Aqua Forum), Carolyn Dubois (The Gordon Foundation), Scott Higgins (IISD Experimental Lakes Area), and Jamie Smith (Environment and Climate Change Canada), with opening remarks from Tom Axworthy (Massey College) and moderated by Pauline Gerrard (IISD Experimental Lakes Area).

A few of the key recommendations that emerged from the panel discussion for the development of the Canada Water Agency were:

  • To develop a comprehensive open access policy with end-user’s needs in mind for sharing and increasing accessibility to water data,
  • To position the federal government in the role of convener to promote collaboration among the already very active (yet fragmented) water community in Canada,
  • To promote the use of existing technologies and to provide opportunities and resources to support the development of new ones.

“There is a need for a comprehensive consultation process to ensure that national water data management and sharing is built with good open data standards and with the end users’ needs in mind. Too often, governmental data shared on open access platforms are restrictive in how an end user such as an academic or entrepreneur can access and use it.” Melissa Dick (Aqua Forum)

“We recommend to the Canada Water Agency that they put in place a framework for incorporating community-generated data in their decision-making. Communities want to see this data used.” Carolyn Dubois (The Gordon Foundation)

“We would like to see the Canada Water Agency take on routine national assessments and forecasts as a challenge, that bring together data and monitoring groups.” Scott Higgins (IISD-ELA)

“Data storage and retention was not something mentioned by others, but it is a preoccupation of mine. If we don’t have historical data, we can’t do good planning. We need to have historical data to understand the variability of water as supply and demand. We need to better understand what the factors are that drive it over time. We need to have to consider having a principle of how we store our data and for how long.”

To see the recording of the panel discussion, click here. Great Lakes Now also summarized the panel discussion in this article.

For other webinar discussions and resources related to the creation of the Canada Water Agency led by the Water Security for Canadians initiation, including on the topics of agriculture, co-development and collaboration with Indigenous Peoples, click here.

Aqua Forum is also involved in organizing an additional upcoming webinar series related to the establishment of the Canada Water Agency, with focus on the role of Quebec in the creation of the Agency and the importance of raising awareness of water issue among Canadians. Both webinars will take place on October 13. For more information and to register, click here.

The Government of Canada has invited the public to provide input into the mandate of the Canada Water Agency through the online platform PlaceSpeak. Communities and individuals have until May 31, 2021, to provide input.