New hi-tech data collection system to improve SNC watershed flood, drought predictions

Seen in above photo (from left to right): Sandra Mancini, Team Lead, Engineering, SNC; Katherine Watson, Water Resources Specialist, SNC; Bill Smirle, Board Member, SNC; Tony Fraser, Councillor, Township of North Dundas; Francis Drouin, Member of Parliament for Glengarry – Prescott – Russell; André Brisson, Councillor, Russell Township; Doug Thompson, Past-Chair, SNC; Cindy Saucier, Councillor, Russell Township; and Gerry Boyce, Deputy Mayor, Township of North Dundas. Zandbergen photo, Nation Valley News

WINCHESTER — The Winchester agricultural research station is helping South Nation Conservation keep high-tech tabs on both heaven and earth — with a combination of new technology to make better and flooding and drought forecasts within the watershed.

The site — still technically owned by the University of Guelph — is one of eight recently upgraded SNC groundwater monitoring stations now sending streams of real-time data to the  “HydroGeoSphere” — a Canadian hydrologic simulator that uniquely predicts water movement on and through the ground.  

Last week, Glengarry-Prescott-Russell MP Francis Drouin, on behalf of federal Agriculture and Agri-Food Minister Lawrence MacAulay, announced a nearly $1-million investment in the SNC initiative with a requisite mention about climate-change concerns. “Our government recognizes that Canadian farmers face risk every day in managing their businesses,” said Drouin. “This investment is all about giving farmers the tools they need to adjust their farms to a changing climate. Helping farmers be better informed in making their water management decisions is good for the sector’s sustainable growth, good for farmers’ bottom lines, and good for the Canadian economy.” 

The 15-month project includes a three-dimensional groundwater-surface water model, helping SNC identify rural and agricultural infrastructure vulnerable to climate change. In real terms, that should mean even more accurate drought and flood advisories issued by SNC in future, according to SNC team leader Ronda Boutz. Already undergoing testing, the eight upgraded stations are uploading data on levels of groundwater, soil moisture and precipitation. The system combines this information with flow data from 10 stream gauges as well as more accurrate weather forecasting data from The Weather Company — an outfit owned by IBM.

The early deployment of the system coincidentally comes as local farmers struggle to harvest quality crops as a result of the copious amounts of rainfall received this year. It’s hoped the HydroGeoSphere platform will help guide producers with water management practices by predicting weather events and providing an array of potential mitigation practices.

The operators must still roll out an online portal for use by SNC staff, expected by March of next year. Boutz said a publicly accessible online version is expected in another three to five years, depending on another round of funding.

The federal contribution comes through Growing Forward 2‘s, AgriRisk Program, which supports new risk management tools for the agricultural sector, as well as research and development into the same.

“We’re pleased to have this opportunity to develop state-of-the-art technology in predictive modelling. This tool will enhance SNC’s Flood Forecasting and Warning and Low Water Response programs. Supplying the model with real-time data strengthens the reliability of the forecasted watershed conditions and allows SNC to provide advance notice for flood events and drought so farmers can prepare accordingly,” expressed past chair of the SNC, Doug Thompson.


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Enjoy the Stormont County Fair — Sept. 1-4, 2017

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