International Watersheds Initiative


A SPARROW model of phosphorus load in the Red River Basin.

SPARROW is a binational, water quality model (Spatially-Referenced Regression on Watershed Attributes).  Several workshops held in 2010 and 2012, with representation from most of the boards, were instrumental in launching the IJC’s second strategic effort, which focuses on water quantity and water quality modelling, including development of SPARROW models in different watersheds.

After considering many existing water quality models, the IJC decided to use the SPARROW model, which had been developed by the USGS. This model was selected because it had already undergone extensive peer review, was appropriate for the scale (i.e., a large basin) and purpose of the application (i.e., estimating regional nutrient loading and quantifying sources).

 It is important to note that this model uses the harmonized hydrographic transboundary data set facilitated by the Commission and its successful application would not have been possible without this important contribution.

The model now has been calibrated and has been consistently applied to the full Red-Assiniboine basin after three years of intensive work that was supported by government partner agencies in both Canada and the U.S.

Building on this success, the IJC is now focusing its effort on the development of a SPARROW model that will cover the Rainy-Lake of the Woods and Great Lakes basins supported by IWI funding. The goal is to have this new model completed by the end of 2015.