Alberta Environment and Protected Areas maintains an organizational system of land-use regions that correspond to the province’s seven major watersheds. Each region is required to prepare a comprehensive land-use plan for managing natural resources in ways that support the province’s long-term economic, environmental, and social goals.
During development of the plan for the North Saskatchewan region, an assessment of existing data revealed that lake morphometrics — quantitative information on the sizes, depths, and volumes of lakes — were missing from AEP’s GIS database. That information is crucial to characterizing lakes and modeling the quality of the water in them, but it was available for only two dozen of the 839 lakes listed in the database.
Although two-dimensional data on the shapes and areas of lakes was relatively easy and inexpensive to obtain by interpreting water-body margins from aerial or satellite imagery, it wasn’t economically feasible for AEP to collect its own three-dimensional data on bathymetry (the underwater contours of a lake). Bathymetric data, however, were an essential component of determining the morphometrics of the hundreds of other lakes in the region.
AEP commissioned Barr to come up with a way of filling in the missing bathymetric piece. The agency gave us two objectives: to identify, collect, and organize existing bathymetric data AEP didn’t already have access to, and to develop a strategy document for ongoing collection and management of morphometric data.
To help the agency quickly identify possible sources of — and then obtain — bathymetric data, Barr facilitated a workshop with potential data holders at other provincial and federal agencies and organizations, including universities and the North Saskatchewan Watershed Alliance. The workshop turned up not only records at those institutions but unpublished information at AEP itself. In addition, the event allowed us to gain an understanding of local challenges and to recognize opportunities for further data collection.
To allow AEP to manage raw and processed morphometric data and transfer the information to its digital assessment tools, Barr designed a database to house the files and the GIS data being gathered. We also developed a strategy document that (1) detailed parameters for prioritizing the collection of morphometric data for lakes in the North Saskatchewan region and (2) recommended economical and logistically practical methods of collecting the data.
The document also included a scoring system that could be used in prioritizing lakes, choosing data-collection technologies, assigning agency staff members to collect data, and storing and analyzing the information.