Data Harmonization

Sound transboundary watershed management is built on seamless and comprehensive hydrographic data (i.e., stream network, basin delineation, elevation datum, physical features) for the geography within the basin. Canada and the U.S. developed their own data sets using different methodologies and interpretations and data formatting and naming conventions. Data sets were truncated (or ended) at the international border. This made it nearly impossible to conduct a comprehensive basin-wide hydrological or hydraulic analysis for shared basins. Reconciling these data sets to produce one seamless data set for a transboundary basin is an arduous and time-consuming effort involving multiple jurisdictions. The Commission decided to take on this challenge as one of its first strategic IWI priorities.

In 2013, in partnership with federal, provincial and state agencies in Canada and the U.S., the task force completed a seamless geospatial data set for each transboundary basin to provide a consistent view of drainage basins along the international border. These uninterrupted data have already begun to make it easier for agencies in the two countries to solve complex water issues that require a thorough understanding of hydrography on both sides of the international border.

These seamless geospatial data will serve a myriad of applications. They will be used to underpin hydraulic, hydrological and water quality models to address a broad range of environmental issues, including, for example, water regulation, water apportionment, flood prediction and delineation, determination of in-stream flow requirements for aquatic life, and nutrient loading.

The harmonization work is a vivid demonstration of how the IWI provides essential data and information that agencies require in order to better fulfill their missions. Moving forward, the Commission is fostering the stewardship of this valuable data set. This task is fundamental to the IJC’s vision that essential water data are harmonized and available in the transboundary basins.