Adding access to over 100 years of water quantity data at Canadian gauging stations via MSC GeoMet

Contributed by: 
Doug Stiff, Chris Thomson, Lingling Liu, Tom Kralidis

The Meteorological Service of Canada (MSC) is a part of Environment and Climate Change Canada and is responsible for collecting, interpreting and disseminating weather, water and climate data. The MSC has expanded its contribution to the recently released MSC GeoMet 2 (see the May 11th blog post by Tom and Alex) by adding historical water quantity data via the emerging Web Feature Service (WFS) 3.0 standard.

As part of MSC, Canada’s National Hydrological Services (NHS) has been collecting and archiving water level and flow information since 1908. Nearly 8000 stations’ data are stored in the national HYDAT database. HYDAT is downloadable and can be navigated with tools such as the Environment Canada Data Explorer.

Accessibility to the NHS HYDAT data has been improved via the OGC compliant MSC GeoMet 2 web feature service!

Figure 1.  Canada's National Hydrologic Services has nearly 8000 active and discontinued water quantity gauging stations that have historical data associated with them.

The recently added data is for NHS hydrometric gauging stations across Canada and includes:

  • NHS station identifier and name
  • Latitude and longitude of each station
  • Historic daily water level and flow
  • Monthly water level and flow
  • Annual maximum and minimum daily water level and flow
  • Annual maximum and minimum instantaneous water level and flow


Figure 2.  Canada’s National Hydrologic Services has been collecting data for over 100 years and these data can now be accessed via MSC GeoMet 2’s WFS services.

Figure 2 shows a sounding party on the Winnipeg River on Aug, 10th, 1913. The data collected at that station can now be accessed via the MSC GeoMet web service Areas of application for this data include public safety, resource management, transportation, agriculture and many more.

Another example of data usage is shown in figure 3. The water level as of July 4, 2018, at Kootenay Lake at Kuskonook (station id 08NH067) is plotted against all previous historical data calculated to produce a graph with maximum water level, the 75th percentile, mean, 25th percentile, minimum water levels.

Figure 3. Putting toady’s data into a historical context is important for understanding risk and deviations from normal.  The graph above shows the maximum water level, the 75th percentile, median, 25th percentile, and minimum water levels based on historic daily means.

An important factor of success in supplying this data is the use of international standards, which ensure the interoperability of information and data access across a wide range of networked data processing systems. As a result of collaboration between OGC and WMO, MSC implements OGC and ISO standards to benefit key initiatives such as the WMO Information System (WIS) and the WMO Integrated Global Observing System (WIGOS).

MSC and Canada’s National Hydrologic Services support openness and interoperability to add value and relevance to our data. We plan to continue to release water quantity resources information including station metadata and near real time data in OGC compliant standards through MSC GeoMet. Our hope is to provide access to these data enabling researchers, private groups, and the public to innovatively unlock the data’s potential!