August’s App of the Month: Discovering the Simon River Watershed Project

August 1, 2018 Mingsze Ho

Engaging the community and stakeholders in a common interest can be challenging. Abrinord, a leading watershed organization in Québec, is succeeding in this area by presenting their watershed analysis and water management action plan for the Simon River using an innovative visualization tool: Esri Story Maps. Discover why their interactive story map was selected as August’s App of the Month.

You know summer is here when school is out, and the temperature is at a constant high of 30 degrees Celsius. In this heat, many people prefer to spend time by the water and enjoy water recreational activities. However, have you ever wondered about the quality of the water you’re in? Do you even know where to start looking for information on this? Let’s take a look at how Abrinord, a watershed organization in Québec, presented their action plan for the Simon River through our App of the Month – Plan d’action de cours d’eau pour la rivière à Simon.

Ever since a high concentration of fecal coliform were found in the river’s waters, Abrinord was approached by the water stakeholders of the Simon River watershed to produce an action plan for the Simon River. The high concentration can potentially put a risk on residents in the surrounding communities, who often engage in recreational water sports such as swimming and canoeing.

Audrey Beaudoin-Arcand, a GIS specialist from Abrinord, used Esri Story Maps to present their findings and action plan.

Similar to July’s App of the Month, Audrey used the Story Map Journal template to combine her narrative with maps to present the area profiles, identify potential causes of water quality degradation and an action plan to address this problem. When asked why she used the Story Map Journal for this project, she clearly outlined how the template accomplishes her four goals:

  1. Create a sense of belonging to the water resource and ensure its collective management.
  2. Create a tool to support decision-making for stakeholders and help them prioritize the actions that need to be implemented.
  3. Capture the interaction between the existing variables (for example, the hydrographic and anthropogenic elements).
  4. Visualize the potential impacts of land use on water management.

Aside from fulfilling these goals, Audrey added that they foresee updating their story map and using it as a presentation and community engagement tool well into the future.

The story map was initially intended for their local watershed committee, which consists of members from the municipal government, community and economic sectors. But, as it was featured in their press release, promoted in social media and picked up by local newspapers, the story map quickly gained the interest of other individuals and organizations who were interested in starting similar projects within other watersheds or other territories of interests.

The story map not only contains attractive maps that support Abrinord’s narrative, it also embeds a scene viewer that helps the public visualize in 3D the watershed’s potential surface runoff.

This scene viewer allows users to navigate areas in Simon River in 3D, helping them discover the potential runoff of contaminants in the watershed.

To further engage users, the story map concludes with another story map, a Story Map Crowdsource app, which invites both the working committee and the local community to participate in the narrative. It allows them to submit an image and description about a location in the study area.

Audrey agrees that getting the audience to participate is important as it creates a sense of belonging and stimulates awareness and commitment to the natural resource. Although the Story Map Crowdsource template moved to mature support phase in June 2018, there are alternative Esri solutions for crowdsourcing information.


The community and working committee contributed images and descriptions of areas within the Simon River Watershed using the Story Map Crowdsource app.

Abrinord’s story map also makes effective use of Story Actions, where a word or phrase in your narrative panel is hyperlinked to show a new map, image, video or web page on the main stage of your story map. This makes the map more interactive.

Clicking on a hyperlink in the narrative (side) panel triggers a story action (for example, the map on the main stage zooms into a specific area of the map). 

When asked about her experience creating her very first story map, Audrey says she really appreciates that she was able to spread the story about her spatial analysis to a broad audience. As for lessons learned from this project, she notes it’s important to be updated on what’s new and available from Esri, in terms of tools and templates. This allows for creative and innovative solutions for analyzing and displaying spatial data. Through the story map, not only was Audrey able to collect the community’s knowledge of the Simon River, she was also able to share information essential to understanding and analyzing the state of the Simon River, so that all stakeholders can work together to preserve this valuable natural resource.

Explore Plan d’Action de cours d’eau pour la rivière à Simon and leave your comments below.

About the Author

Mingsze Ho

Mingsze Ho is a GIS Analyst for Esri Canada. Fascinated with displaying data in a spatial way, she focuses on generating story maps and other applications using Esri technology. She discovered her passion for maps when she started colouring and drawing maps in elementary school, and she was determined to become a cartographer. Mingsze loves how a map can illustrate the ways that certain features or phenomena affect human lives. While obtaining a bachelor’s degree in Environmental Studies, she realized the world had moved on to digital maps. She was heartbroken initially, until she discovered the power of GIS and how it can be used to leverage both art and data to create beautiful, interactive maps. In her free time, Mingsze continues to draw maps. She just really likes maps.

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