Alberta’s One-Stop Water Information Spot

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“We wanted to make it easier for all Albertans to find and share information on water.”

Alberta may have one of the simplest ways around to access water information that’s important to people in the province. It’s a web portal (www.albertawater.com), a virtual library of every sort of information that’s available on our water.

The portal is the brainchild of Alberta WaterSMART, a not-for-profit engineering group working with government and industry on ways to reuse and recycle water. Along with partners, IBM Canada, the Bow River Basin Council and Tesera, an environmental consulting company from Cochrane, the company has been working on the project for some years.

“There’s a lot of frustration in trying to find water data and information,” says Mike Scarth, a member of Alberta WaterSMART. “We wanted to make it easier for all Albertans to find and share information on water.”

Alberta has over 1,000 water-related organizations, each with their own perspective and stakeholders and most with their own website, says Scarth. The challenge, he says, is to connect those diverse groups in such a way that all the groups gain. The goal is to have a community where industry, government and nongovernmental organizations can find and contribute knowledge so all can contribute to better water management decisions.

The web portal is the answer. A portal is a website that links users to many other sites, just as a library connects you to information in print and other media.

The water portal allows you to access some technical material that is not easy to find. The site includes weather records and forecasts, directories of water authorities and tools for understanding water processes, hydrology terms, and calculators to help figure out water needs.

Traffic on the Alberta water portal is increasing. At first traffic increased slowly to 5,000 a month, but during 2009, visitors have increased by 1,000 a month. Page views now average five to six per visit.

Most of the work so far has been a volunteer effort. there are many links and plans to add modules on watershed stewardship, watershed planning and advisory committees, irrigation and agriculture, water education, and small and medium enterprises.

Support from the Alberta Water Research Institute and the Suncor Foundation is allowing summer students to add many new links into the portal. Volunteers, including Bob Sandford, Chair of the Canadian Partnership initiative in support of the United Nations Water for Life decade, contribute columns. These give diverse views on water issues.

The Alberta Water Portal is one of a family of water portals. BC, UNESCO, India and Wikipedia as well as Siemens and EcoEarth all have water portals.

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