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

Interdisciplinary Centre on Climate Change

We are pleased to write in full support of the Canada-Europe Partnership, particularly the collaboration of the Interdisciplinary Centre on Climate Change (IC3) and the
Partners for Action (P4A) network to support incorporation of climate change considerations in the project and assist in testing FLOODVIEW with Canadian municipalities and insurers.
 
P4A and IC3 are dedicated to consideration of climate change in Canada’s approach to flood risk management, and dissemination of knowledge and best practices to the insurance industry, government decision-makers, and the Canadian public. We look forward to partnering with you to identify effective solutions to minimize urban flooding.

Dr. Daniel Scott
Executive Director
Interdisciplinary Centre on Climate Change
Faculty of Environment University of Waterloo

October 20, 2015
 

University of Guelph

The reappearance of excessive nutrient loading in Lake Erie and the subsequent algae blooms is an extremely complex issue and is quite different in nature than the previous phosphorous loadings in the 1970s. Unlike the issue in the 1970s, there are far more sources adding nutrients to the late and these sources are diverse in nature ranging from rural to urban. In order to understand the nutrient loading, both in the temporal and spatial domains, more complex analytic and predictive tools are required in order to help policy make sound, science based, and defendable solutions.

The University of Guelph is uniquely positioned to help address the issues around Lake Erie with long standing core strengths in both the agricultural sector and the environmental field. In conjunction with our partner, Greenland Consulting Engineers, and their watershed evaluation tool (CANWETTM), we believe that we have the engineering and technology to extrapolate CANWETTM from the watershed level up to the lake basin level and provide decision-making support for the entire Lake Erie basin.

Hussein Abdullah, Ph.D., P. Eng.
Director, School of Engineering
University of Guelph

January, 26 2015
 

Member of Parliament - Simcoe-Grey

I would like to offer my congratulations as you celebrate the occasion of your 25th Anniversary. 

Your grasp of environmental and development regulations in the Canadian market, and ability to work collaboratively with private and public partnerships in the delivery of award-winning engineering and technologies supporting municipal infrastructures, water resources, asset sustainability and more is most valued. 

I wish you many years of prosperity and success in Simcoe-Grey.

Terry Dowdall
Member of Parliament for Simcoe-Grey

November 1, 2019
 

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