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App of the Month: Ontario’s Source Protection Information Atlas

From putting simple points on a map to creating custom web apps, Esri technology can help you to achieve all of that. But sometimes, the needs of your organization go beyond what is provided out of the box. Creating custom apps with advanced configurations with your existing Esri content is easy by using Geocortex Essentials. Developed by Latitude Geographics, this Web GIS is designed to sit on top of the ArcGIS Online or ArcGIS Enterprise portal framework and allows for easy-to-use, advanced app configuration. Let’s see how the Ontario Ministry of Environment, Conservation and Parks (MECP) used Geocortex Essentials to build March’s App of the Month.

March 22, 2019 is World Water Day, which celebrates the over 1.1 million square kilometres of freshwater in Canada that we are fortunate to enjoy. Understanding the vulnerability of our water is a challenge, given the vastness of our country and our water resources. March’s App of the Month, created by the Ontario Ministry of Environment, Conservation and Parks, is the Source Protection Information Atlas. Built using Geocortex Essentials, this app serves to protect Ontario’s municipal drinking water sources.

Latitude Geographics is the developer of Geocortex Essentials. An Esri Platinum Partner, they have been working with Esri since 1999. Geocortex Essentials allows you to skip costly and time-consuming custom development with easy, advanced configurations of geo-enabled apps. Leveraging existing Esri technology like Web AppBuilder for ArcGIS, Geocortex Essentials provides advanced widgets and tools to create efficient, easy-to-use and functional GIS applications, as seen in this Atlas.

The app allows users to input a location by address, coordinates or municipality, and weighs its location with overlays of a complicated array of 20+ layers. It performs a quick analysis and formulates a degree of concern regarding water quality for the entered location based on the following factors: distance from drinking water sources, underlying soil types and existing condition, to name a few. The app identifies your location, and determines whether it’s a protected wellhead area, intake protection zone or an area where ground water is recharged significantly, or whether the underlying aquifers are vulnerable.

The results of a search in the Toronto area. Notice the details in the left pane outlining the protection area marked by the point on the map. The blue polygon represents an Intake Protection Zone.

While there’s the age-old saying, “quality over quantity,” this Atlas shows you can have both.

The app allows you to explore not just data on the quality of water of a given location, as outlined above, but it also lets you switch it up, and take a look at the quantity of water at a given location. What’s more, the app also includes an inventory of active Permits to Take Water, which identifies locations where anyone is taking more than 50,000 litres of water in a day. It exhibits the who, what, where and why of the permits. It even includes water budget details for any location, showing the maximum allowable litres per day that can be taken.

If all that isn’t enough, the Atlas also includes a search for source protection policies that are unique to each Source Protection Area (SPA), bringing up a table that pulls each policy from a database.

The Source Protection Information Atlas represents a massive effort in collaboration and includes data from all of Ontario’s Conservation Authorities. It is the first time that this data has been shown to the public on a provincial scale – replacing what used to be hundreds of static maps with one easily-navigable web mapping application.

But it wasn’t all clear sailing.

The GIS team at MECP was challenged by the multitude of stakeholders involved. It took strong partnerships; and strong quality control/quality assurance of their standardized geodatabase schema was imperative. As well, ongoing training for proper use of the map for all 40 reporting partners is critical to ensure ongoing success.

So, what have been the results? Aside from providing easy public access to information about how source protection policies may impact existing or proposed activities on a given property, the Atlas has helped reduce the amount of time individuals spend researching and compiling information to comply with source protection policy requirements by almost 12,000 hours and generate corresponding savings of over $2.4 million, all in just one year!

If there was ever any doubt of the value of a geographic information system, it’s all but gone after seeing these statistics.

But, the Atlas’ success is not just all in the numbers. Feedback from users has been nothing short of terrific, with stakeholders stating that the app has “revolutionized how the MECP conducts place-based and evidence-based decision-making”. Beyond enabling more efficient source protection work, the app has improved MECP’s geospatial environment as a whole, giving better access to mapping services such as administrative boundaries and other GIS data.

The MECP doesn’t plan to stop there. They plan to integrate new map layers and reporting from a broader range of partners into the Atlas to better serve a wider user base.

Check out the Source Protection Information Atlas and explore Geocortex Essentials.