CANadian Watershed Evaluation Tool (CANWET™)

Background (2003 - 2019)

CANWET™ is an open data, urban and rural, platform (and developed by GREENLAND® since 2003) for cumulative effects analysis and watershed management. CANWET™ is now “Powered by SWAT” and includes open source GIS-software designed to inform decision making around watershed management; integrated water supply and wastewater treatment infrastructure; urban drainage control; and, climate change adaptation. The platform’s ability to accurately calculate hourly water balance, nutrients, erosion sediment, bacteria, water temperatures, dissolved oxygen and other parameters from GIS data, enables CANWET™ to serve as a powerful decision support system. It also includes science-based climate change impact and mitigative Best Management Practices & Low Impact Development analytics, as well as “automated” modelling data calibration and verification capabilities.



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In 2006, Version ‘2’ was completed with timely support from the Province of Ontario (Canada) to develop the award-winning “Lake Simcoe Protection Plan”. Further tool updates were then used for similar Assimilative Capacity; Watershed Planning; Master Drainage Planning; Water and Wastewater Infrastructure Planning; and, Source Water Protection projects in Canada.
 
From 2015-18, GREENLAND® and the University of Guelph (Canada) were retained by the Government of Canada to undertake an “Evaluation of Policy Options to Achieve Phosphorus and Nutrient Reductions from Canadian Sources to Lake Erie”. The initial collaboration established an extensive list of the most viable policy options. Subsequent evaluations then examined the effectiveness of all policy options on the basis of achieving nutrient load reduction targets; sustainable cost effectiveness; potential impact to the economy; social acceptance; and, efficiency of implementation. Later projects then considered what initiatives were in place and recommended how gaps might be filled. The main objective was to determine what “best suite of policy actions” could achieve the greatest nutrient load reductions, while also being the most effective in terms of cost, time and social acceptance. A unique analytical and stakeholder engagement approach was undertaken using CANWET™ (v.4) and as a means of quantifying and better understanding the origin / timing of phosphorus loads from the Canadian watershed lands draining to Lake Erie.

In 2015, GREENLAND® and University of Waterloo (Canada) team were retained to update a previous CANWET™ (v.2) model of the Nottawasaga River Basin (north of Toronto) and to develop a “web - accessible platform prototype” that could later inform municipal infrastructure, urban planning and stewardship decisions. The platform would enable a long-term continuous consideration of cumulative effects and climate change too. This “first-ever” Internet platform was called ‘CANWET-5’. It was completed in March 2017. The platform also included the development of a new predictive module for river basin habitat health and later used to assess instream target load reductions and locations. Also, original CANWET™ science based algorithms were updated so that the new tool could be used to evaluate potential for river ecosystem health impairments. This customized CANWET-5 platform version also incorporated simulated water quality conditions from calibrated sub-watershed areas with observed stream reach physical and geomorphic characteristics. The river habitat health indicator in CANWET-5 was used to evaluate target nutrient load reductions with a climate change impact methodology (also built into CANWET-5) and used to assess river system segments found to be impaired. Finally, the river habitat health methodology was transferable to other Canadian watersheds and could also be customized for use in other regions around the globe. A CANWET-5 screenshot from the project is shown below. (NOTE: In late 2019, discussions were initiated with the client project partners about updating the available datasets for an integrated regional servicing, urban growth assessment and watershed protection initiative. Further details will be announced soon).


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Latest Evolution (Year 2020 and Beyond)
 
Since the completion of the original desktop prototype (in 2003), CANWET™ has been used for:

  • The award-winning “Lake Simcoe Protection Plan” (& which will be updated in 2020);
  • Assessing water use stresses within the Great Lakes Basin and as part-of a multiple partnerships for legislated Source Water Protection projects in Ontario;
  • Watershed characterizations and water budget assessments for other Source Water Protection projects by Ontario’s conservation authorities and other stakeholders;
  • Canadian urban growth impact assessments and identification of wastewater and stormwater infrastructure solutions for municipalities and land developers; and,
  • Testing / validating (successfully) the use of CANWET™ for use in the Lake Erie Basin and supported by landmark projects funded by the Government of Canada.


In 2018, GREENLAND® initiated a 4-year software collaboration with the University of Guelph (Canada). The first project included further developing CANWET™ with Artificial Intelligence (machine learning) features, as well as maintaining current capabilities and adding new / proven-science predictive modelling functions available for the “SWAT” analytical engine. “The system will make this information accessible to everyone from government to urban planners and researchers,” says Professor Prasad Daggupati from the University of Guelph. “Users will be able to see spatially what is happening and take appropriate actions.”  The project will enable regulatory agencies to reduce the harmful effects that algal blooms have on water quality, fish, and wildlife populations in and surrounding the Great Lakes Basin.


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CANWET™ Spatial (HRU Scale) Distribution of Annual Average Phosphorus Forms (Organic, Mineral, Total at the “Site Level”) in a Subwatershed of the Grand River Watershed (Lake Erie Basin – Canada)

Prior to 2019, CANWETTM was VB.Net database-driven and web-aware, and with an open source GIS environment. Its relative ease of use and ability to take advantage of commonly available spatial data also made it a defendable choice over other continuous models with greater data input requirements. This "All-In-One" software suite allowed beginning a project without requiring expensive prerequisite software to use in tandem.
 
The latest “Big Data Version” of CANWET™ (developed by GREENLAND® and University of Guelph) has advanced earlier (desktop) versions by utilizing high performance parallel (cloud) computing functionality. The latest update is a fully functional web-based platform with SWAT modelling tools that can allow greater access by decision makers and stakeholders. Therefore, the new version advances the idea of evaluating cumulative effects in the watershed decision making process rather than the current practice of assessing proposed changes in isolation.
 
The CANWETTM evolution (since 2018) has taken advantage of high performance computing by porting existing code to a higher performing language and restructuring to operate using parallel or multi-core processing. Therefore, the platform operates now with “dramatic reductions” in simulation runtimes. The reduced runtimes also facilitated the use of new automatic calibration and verification routines for SWAT model setups – thereby, reducing project labour costs. It can also enable faster analytics for “What-If” watershed simulations and if a re-run is requested through the web-based user interface. In 2020 (and beyond), it is anticipated the CANWET™ (machine learning) web-based platform (“Powered by SWAT) will be used more by decision and policy makers in Canada and to understand better the sources of pollution (and related climate change factors). For example, this includes phosphorus which is a major contributor to Lake Erie eutrophication problems. Therefore, CANWET™ can be used to also develop sustainable policies in supporting a wide variety of watershed planning Best Management Practices and ultimately help achieve the Canadian Government’s commitments to reduce 40% phosphorus entering Lake Erie by 2025.

In January 2020, another CANWET™ public – private partnership involving the City of Waterloo (Canada) was initiated by the GREENLAND® and University of Guelph team. This collaboration will develop an integrated model of surface/groundwater interactions using CANWET™ and with available “MODFLOW” databases. The platform will be used by the project team to investigate sodium chloride (salt) transport affecting the Laurel Creek Watershed. The integrated surface / groundwater platform will also take advantage of in-house high performance computing resources to calibrate and validate the CANWET™ model. This second-to-none platform will enable the Municipality to:
 

  • Identify contributing areas to stormwater management infrastructure (Ponds and LIDs);
  • Estimate seasonal sodium chloride loads associated with rock salt applications to contributing area roads;
  • Estimate infiltrated volumes of stormwater at Ponds and LID facility locations;
  • Estimate infiltrated volumes of stormwater from watercourses and pervious surfaces;
  • Estimate groundwater elevations, flows and directions receiving stormwater infiltration;
  • Conduct a mass balance analysis on sodium chloride and assess its transport and fate;
  • Assess potential for sodium and chloride concentration increases resulting from induced stormwater infiltration practices over time; and,
  • Evaluate cumulative effects from upstream drainage areas on each stormwater facility.


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Laurel Creek Drainage Areas within the Region of Waterloo
(Including, Regulated Groundwater Well Head Protection Areas)
 
“What-If” scenario analyses will also be undertaken using CANWET™ to compare the outcomes of multiple policy options. The options will include (but not be limited to):
 
  • Selecting between stormwater conveyance options that either enhance or avoid infiltration in specific geographic areas. Infiltration might be used in headwater areas with lower urban density or where alternatives to spring - winter period rock salts are applied;
  • Directing future urban growth away from sensitive drinking water recharge areas that sustain groundwater sources (and via regulated groundwater wellhead protection areas);
  • Identifying areas that should only receive road sanding or other alternatives to rock salt (during spring –winter periods) due to elevated risks; and,
  • Identifying facilities that should be prioritized for retrofit to prevent infiltration losses.
 
The resulting CANWET™ (“Powered by SWAT and MODFLOW”) platform will allow the City of Waterloo (and neighbouring municipalities) to make better informed decisions that impact the protection of vulnerable source water in the Waterloo Region. The new tool will also have added benefits in assisting with the management of other water quality and water balance issues too.
 
Finally, this CANWET™ update (first project prototype to be completed by 2021) will also be available for use in any watershed in Canada, as well as any other region around the globe.
 


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Client Testimonials

City of Ottawa

On behalf of the City of Ottawa, we would like to thank Greenland International Consulting Limited, and in particular, Don Moss for his exemplary efforts in his role as Model Keeper for the City of Ottawa… Greenland has achieved a high level of confidence with Senior Staff and City Council as well Conservation authority and the Ontario Ministry of Environment… The City is appreciative of the new Modelling Tool developed by Greenland which will assist the City in conducting timely and efficient development reviews. The City will now be able to test proposed infrastructure with the overall development, determine changing impacts to existing infrastructure as ponds, as well as any changes to the receiving watercourses.

Don’s knowledge, dedication and professional approach over the past five years has been a crucial factor in the success of the project under very challenging circumstances.

Don Herweyer, MCIP, RPP
Program Manager
City of Ottawa

February 11, 2014
 

Six Nations Council

On behalf of the Environment Office of the Six Nations of the Grand River, we would like to thank Greenland International Consulting Limited for the work completed to prepare the Master Drainage and Flood Remediation Plan (MDFRP) for the McKenzie Creek watershed. This plan has now enabled our office to identify the flood prone residences throughout the watershed with the flood plain mapping that has been prepared as part of this assignement. We appreciate the role that Greenland has played in assisting our office in directing Public Works with prioritizing the remedial projects to be completed in the flood prone areas. 

We also appreciate Greenland's effort in assisting the Six Nations of the Grand River with the preparation of funding applications to secure the resources to complete these remedial works. We are convinced that this MDFRP can be used as a template for completing similar drainage and flood remediation works both locally and in other First Nations lands. 

We look forward to working with your company again in the near future on the remaining watersheds that need this important work done. 

Thank you for your ongoing assistance. 

Clynt King 
Environmental Technician 
Six Nations Council Environment Office 

July 25, 2016
 

County of Simcoe

Greenland provided exemplary consulting services to complete this landmark project. The firm’s attention to detail and proactive ideas was very important to assist the County in addressing the issues of concern about the study’s findings and also providing defendable, yet provocative, solutions based on best available science and proven technologies for the benefit of all local municipalities.

This letter confirms that the study objectives were met within the approved time frame. Greenland also provided a sizeable in-kind contribution to complete value-added deliverables and established new partnerships in terms of future watershed modeling and technology development initiatives involving the County of Simcoe. 

Rick Newlove, P. Eng.
General Manager of Engineering, Planning and Environment
County of Simcoe

May 1, 2012
 

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