DAL Researchers Release First Ns Watershed Assessment Atlas
April 10th, 2014
The Hydrology Research Group at Dalhousie University, in collaboration with Nova Scotia Environment (NSE) has launched the first Nova Scotia Watershed Atlas and geodatabase as part of the Nova Scotia Watershed Assessment Program. This atlas provides the first high-level assessment of the health and stressors of the watersheds in Nova Scotia.
The Nova Scotia Watershed Assessment Atlas and geodatabase presents research on watersheds across the province in an easy to understand package, making the information useable to both the government, as a management tool, and to the public, as an education tool. It culminates three and a half years of gathering, checking and analyzing spatial information on Nova Scotia’s watersheds.
Many of small coastal watersheds are ranked as facing relatively high levels of stress—these will be important to investigate in more detail. These small coastal watersheds can often be overlooked in inventories, yet much of our population live in these areas, so threats to water quality and supply in the watersheds can be of particular importance.
Nova Scotia is unique in that it is composed of many smaller watersheds that flow directly into the ocean, as opposed to being dominated by large watersheds (e.g. Alberta, New Brunswick, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, or British Columbia). This pattern of plentiful small coastal watersheds highlight a particular need for high-level watershed planning in Nova Scotia.
High-level watershed planning at the provincial scale is a key part of watershed management. These assessments can reveal increased opportunities for risk prevention and rational goals for watershed restoration. High-level assessments are a particularly effective tool for evaluating threats posed by non-point-source stressors, such as urban runoff pollution, released over a wide area because their impacts are not easily monitored or detected from monitoring of rivers.
Another part of the Nova Scotia Watershed Assessment Program that is released is a geodatabase that assembles provincial scale watershed information. This geodatabase is made available to the public. The atlas uses the information from the geodatabase to compare threatened watersheds with those in which protective measures are in place. Watersheds with the highest threat and with the least amount of protective measures are highlighted as high priority for more detailed investigation.
“We have developed a model that identifies the threats to our watersheds, and which watersheds have the most stresses. We examine stresses related to water quality, stream habitat, flow change, and surface erosion. The watersheds that pop up as being among the most stressed are those containing highly developed coastal communities, such as Cornwallis, Cunard watersheds around Wolfville, the Sackville watershed near Halifax, and the Sydney watershed, near Sydney,” says Shannon Sterling, Director of the Dalhousie Hydrology Group, Dalhousie University.
“Nova Scotia Environment is committed to strengthening our understanding of water resources, including improving our information systems, encouraging research and identifying specific areas that are gaps in our knowledge of water in this province. The Nova Scotia Watershed Assessment Atlas embodies that commitment by presenting research on watersheds across the province in an easy to understand package, making the information useable to both the government, as a management tool, and to the public, as an education tool,” says Kevin Garroway, Lead Scientist, Nova Scotia Environment, Government of Nova Scotia.
The Nova Scotia Watershed Assessment Atlas 2014 is available online: earthsciences.dal.ca/www/PDFs/Final_Atlas_Mar_20_2014.pdf