Open Access Hubs
Measures the number of threatened watershed basins (23) in Canada with high quality open access water data hubs

It’s important to be transparent that this Shared Measurement System was designed from a non-Indigenous worldview and we recognize that Indigenous ways of knowing are absent from it. For more information on this positioning, see our Right Relations page.


Ready and free access to reliable water-related data is essential for good decision making. Ideally, Canadians should have access to free, online water data platforms – or “open access hubs” – that bring together various sources of data, knowledge and other water information in a way that is understandable, accessible and sustainable over time for each of Canada’s 25 major watersheds[1]. We believe that when properly designed, an open access hub should:

  • focus on freshwater health across an entire watershed;
  • have a clear purpose and provide data relevant to meeting users’ needs;
  • include data of multiple types from multiple sources (e.g., academic research data, Indigenous and local knowledge, community-based monitoring data, industry data and government monitoring data)
  • be readily accessible and free to use;
  • present data in understandable and readily usable formats;
  • provide data that is reliable and trustworthy;
  • provide metadata to aid in proper interpretation and use of the data;
  • provide data that are timely and regularly updated;
  • be sustainable over the long-term, with adequate resources available for maintenance;
  • be actively used;
  • be governed by a clear and appropriate data management policy[2]; and
  • be consistently evaluated to ensure its long-term performance.

Using these criteria as a guide, we assessed the quality of the open access hubs for the 23 watersheds that WWF-Canada has found to be Canada’s threatened watershed basins. Overall, we rate open access data hubs for Canada’s threatened watershed basins as medium in terms of quality.

All 23 threatened basins have:

  • some form of open data access;
  • support by organizations with proven track records and clear long-term commitments to monitoring;
  • a mix of data types available, though government-funded scientific monitoring dominates; and
  • metadata widely available and data standards established.

The geographic scope of monitoring is reasonably good, though much less monitoring is done in remote basins.

Not all open access hubs are of the same quality, however. Of the 23 threatened basins, only 11 have hubs we consider to be of high quality. Five basins (the Ottawa, Great Lakes, Okanagan-Similkameen, Columbia and Fraser-Lower Mainland basins) have high or very high WWF threat levels but rank only medium in terms of hub quality. 

Our full analysis of open access water data hubs across Canada can be found here.

Major Watershed Basin WWF Canada’s threat level Quality of the available open access hub(s) (subjective rating of low, medium or high)
1. Newfoundland and Labrador basin Moderate High
2. North Shore-Gaspé basin Moderate Medium
3. Maritime Coastal basin Moderate High
4. St. John-St. Croix basin High High
5. Arctic Coast – Islands Very low Not Assessed
6. Keewatin – Southern Baffin basin Very low Not Assessed
7. Northern Quebec basin Low Low
8. St. Lawrence basin Moderate Medium
9. Ottawa basin High Medium
10. Northern Ontario basin Low Low
11. Great Lakes basin Very high Medium
12. Winnipeg Basin Very high High
13. Churchill basin Moderate Medium
14. Lower Saskatchewan-Nelson basin Moderate High
15. Assiniboine-Red basin Very high High
16. Missouri basin High High
17. South-Saskatchewan basin Very high High
18. Lower Mackenzie basin Low High
19. North Saskatchewan basin High High
20. Peace-Athabasca basin Moderate High
21. Columbia basin High Medium
22. Okanagan-Similkameen basin High Medium
23. Fraser-Lower Mainland basin High Medium
24. Pacific Coast basin Low Medium
25. Yukon basin Low Medium

[1] See here for a map of these the watersheds.

[2] See, for example, the data policy of the Mackenzie DataStream.

Last updated December 2019

Note: The data presented here represents our best research given the time and resources at hand. We acknowledge there may be errors. This shared measurement system belongs to all members of the Our Living Water Network, so if you have any corrections for us, or ideas to share on this measure, please send us an email at [email protected].

Open Access Hubs|Measures the number of Canada’s threatened watershed basins (23) with high quality open access water data hubs
Open Access Hubs|Measures the number of threatened watershed basins (23) in Canada with high quality open access water data hubs
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