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CoP Apps > Flowing Water Information System

Flowing Water Information System

The Flowing Waters Information System (FWIS) is a ``Collaborative Geomatics'' service for the municipal planners and resource agency staff that need access to collective stream fisheries data in the Lake Ontario basin to protect sensitive fish habitat. FWIS will provide up-to-date and comprehensive fish species habitat and stream flow information from more than 1500 stations monitored by a dozen collaborating resource agencies and allow practitioners to test future development scenarios to predict impacts on fish species habitat and stream conditions for streams where monitoring data is unavailable.Recently (2013), 196,046 fish distribution records from 4230 sites and studies collected by 30 partners within 32 Great Lakes watersheds over the past 42 years were uploaded to FWIS.  

FWIS offers an approach for identifying: where and what data has been collected, who collected the data, and which protocols were used. This information will facilitate better science development, state of resource reporting, monitoring and data sharing.

To launch the FWIS website Click here

Sponsor & Rationale

The Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources (OMNR) IM & Spatial Analysis Unit has engaged COMAP for the development of a the Flowing Waters Information System (FWIS) application, based on OSAP data model and data.

OMNR’s ability to build productive relationships with conservation partners is a fundamental key to the organization’s ability to influence natural heritage protection, ecological monitoring and ecological restoration activities in southern Ontario. Relationship building requires a large time investment, emphasis on frequent open communication and delivering on commitments in a timely fashion. A wealth of information on Great Lakes Basin streams has been collected by numerous government and non-government agencies on both the US and Canadian sides of the basin. Periodically, researchers have compiled data to develop a better understanding of the influence of tributaries on the Great Lakes fisheries. Recent initiatives on both sides of the basin show tremendous progress towards understanding the influence of landscape conditions on fisheries. Additionally, progress is being made in better standardizing the collection of field data.

However, such analyses require a large investment in data preparation that involves soliciting the numerous agencies that collect stream data and requesting their latest sampling data. Inevitably, researchers must repeat the process of gathering data for each new research initiative at tremendous costs and loss of time. In Ontario, a network approach of collecting data and sharing it through a free database has demonstrated that there is significant interest in both standardizing data collection and sharing survey results.

Over the past 15 years, partners have contributed stream fisheries data on more than 3800 + sites collected according to the OSAP to a master dataset that is then shared back to partners and researchers in the basin. The OSAP was designed to address a variety of stream assessment issues, ranging from very specific questions (e.g., determining maximum summer water temperature) to broader issues (e.g., changes in fish community composition over time). Study design will be determined by project managers and will indicate which modules should be completed. The OSAP provides standardized methods that ensure data repeatability.










While the protocols may be comparable, there are still two issues with data management for this information. First, while government agencies are making progress at providing standardized systems, they are not generally easily accessible by other agencies. Second a large number of stream surveyors still store information on individual personal computers, or in spreadsheet format. As a result, it is difficult to access available information on tributary fisheries production in Great Lakes basins. The availability of a common information system accessible to all stream surveyors would reduce costs, increase communication and data sharing, increase sample sizes and power of statistical tests on the effects of regulations, habitat improvements or other management techniques, and permit comparisons to be made across spatial and temporal scales. Moreover, a common information management system accessible to all stream surveyors through the internet could provide a venue to facilitate development of a community of practice on Great Lakes stream fisheries management. The availability of a collective data set that can readily be compiled from a web-enabled information management system will support predictive modeling.

The OMNR, IM & Spatial Analysis Unit is engaged in developing and promoting the adoption of science-based standard protocols and standard databases for fine scale monitoring and reporting efforts conducted by numerous stakeholders in southern Ontario, including:

  • Organizing and facilitating user needs sessions with current users, primarily Conservation Authorities, of the Ontario Stream Assessment Protocol (OSAP) to develop the criteria for a new application to manage data about streams (i.e., habitat, benthos, fish) collected by multiple stakeholders. For example, an online survey of stream surveyors identified the specific user preferences for data entry, data access, data quality assurance, reporting and summary features, GIS interface, internet distribution (e.g., distributed or central server; government or non-government server), etc.
  • Developing the data base model for the storage of the 7 modules of OSAP data.


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