5.4 Data quality and availability

The evaluation matrix shows, for example, that a database such as the MOECC Drinking Water and Information System (DWIS) database was given a score of 1 for relevancy, 1 for its format, but 2 for accessibility because it is internal to the Ministry, although MOECC has indicated that data and reports can be provided upon request. Similarly, annual flow reports were give a score of 1 for relevancy, 2 for format (because they are in the form of PDFs, rather than in a database), and 2 for accessibility (because there is some effort required to access the information).

The WTP_WS_Water Filtration Plant and STP_Sewage Treatment Plant GIS data sets were provided to the Neptis Foundation by the Ministry of Municipal Affairs (MMA). They contain key information on water and wastewater treatment plants, such as the name and location of the treatment plants, including mapping coordinates. Information on water sources for intake, the plant's rated capacity, and population served is available for water treatment plants, but not wastewater plants.

These two data sets are not current, since they were created in 2005-2006. However, the Neptis Foundation has updated the data to the extent possible and linked it to its own settlement-area GIS data set. Some preliminary mapping has been done to show which settlement areas receive water from inland water systems vs. the Great Lakes and which ones send effluent to inland water systems. This kind of data set is relevant for completing all three stages of this project and received the highest ranking for four of the five criteria. However, without a process for updating the data on a regular basis, the data sets are considered one-off products and given a 3 for frequency of data collection.

MOECC's Drinking Water Information System (DWIS) appears to contain similar information to the MMA GIS data sets on water and wastewater plants. These data[1] could allow the creation of a more up-to-date foundation on which to build an information system and tool to inform growth management and land use in the Greater Golden Horseshoe.

Two databases, the Permits To Take Water (PTTW) and the Well Water Information System (WWIS), are publicly available. One informant, however, pointed out a flaw in these databases. There is no common index number that would allow the linking of the two databases to each other or to municipal data. Without a common index number, a Permit To Take Water has no retrospective connectivity: that is, new permits are not linked to a previous permit for the same site. Additional work is needed to make such links.

The Oak Ridges Moraine Groundwater Program, supported by the municipalities of Peel, York, and Toronto, as well as nine conservation authorities, has done considerable work in improving the accuracy and currency of the WWIS, but the program does not cover the whole Greater Golden Horseshoe. The methods used by the program could, however, be used at the GGH scale.

In addition, the PTTW, WWIS, and Provincial Groundwater Monitoring Network do not identify the aquifer from which water is being taken. It is thus difficult to assess threats or potentially conflicting uses (in the absence of obvious signs of drawdown or well interference) without extensive analysis of cumulative impacts.

Finally, another informant pointed to the critical importance of linking permit information to well IDs and actual water takings for the effective management of water resources. Although water takings are linked to individual wells, a permit can cover multiple wells. Hence the need to link datasets to individual wells.

Our evaluation shows that in addition to DWIS, the following databases could be accessed and useful:

  • Water Takings and Reporting: Information is added by permitted water takers through a web portal.
  • Municipal Wastewater Effluent Data: Effluent data for approximately 500 municipal wastewater treatment plants across Ontario is available. The Province is currently deciding whether to include this data set on its open data portal.
  • Effluent Regulatory Reporting Information System (ERRIS): Maintained by Environment and Climate Change Canada, this database contains information and mapping coordinates about discharge points for wastewater treatment plants and the receiving waterbody.

Municipalities are also required to report flow data for water and wastewater treatment plants, which they publish either as PDFs posted on municipal websites or in hard copy, available from municipal offices. Key metrics such as the average daily flow and/or maximum daily flow (required to calculate the unused or available capacity of plants) are found in these reports and these data could be manually added to a database. The process could be expedited if MOECC already has this information in a database format.

[1] In 2012, MOECC published the information online in a standardized format. The information is still online, but cannot be accessed from the main MOECC website. For an example of one page, see: http://www.downloads.ene.gov.on.ca/files/dwo/report/system_dws=220010752.html