Establishing Authoritative Transboundary Hydrologic Units for the Great Lakes Basin

IJC staff
November 15, 2017
map of Great Lakes watershed

The IJC’s Transboundary Hydro Data Harmonization (THDH) Task Force partnered with the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Great Lakes Environmental Research Laboratory (GLERL) in Ann Arbor, Michigan, to host a workshop on developing authoritative transboundary hydrologic units for the Great Lakes region (see Figure 1).

great lakes harmonization
Figure 1: Categorization of hydrologic units for differentiating between major steps in the progression of the Great Lakes data harmonization effort. Credit: USGS/K. Jones

The task force, which includes representatives from IJC, US Geological Survey (USGS), Environment and Climate Change Canada (ECCC), and Natural Resources Canada (NRCan), has been implementing a broad data harmonization effort along the Canada-US border since 2008 in support of IJC’s International Watersheds Initiative.

The August 2017 workshop, dubbed the Great Lakes Watershed Forum, represented a step toward this goal for the Great Lakes basin. It was important because the basin represents a relatively challenging binational water interface. Over the course of the workshop, participants discussed a range of approaches to resolving geospatial representations of shorelines, islands, and artificial routing through the five lakes. Historical research in the Great Lakes has shown that, without this type of region-specific focus, it’s unlikely these challenges would be adequately addressed.

As with previous Canada-US data harmonization regions, participation and input from states, provinces and regional groups bordering the Great Lakes is critical to the binational data harmonization process. To that end, the Great Lakes Watershed Forum included representatives from Ontario, Indiana, Minnesota, and New York, Erie County, NOAA, USGS, IJC, and the University of Michigan. The task force plans a follow-up workshop within the next year to ensure continued regional input in this harmonization process.

This article includes contributions from Drew Gronewold (NOAA), Kim Jones (USGS), Judy Kwan (ECCC), Mike Laitta (IJC), Lacey Mason (U. Michigan), Pete Steeves (USGS), and Li Wang (IJC).

workshop attendees
Workshop attendees (left to right): Lacey Mason (University of Michigan), Lizhu Wang (IJC), Drew Gronewold (NOAA), Michael Laitta (IJC), Chris Morse (USDA-NRCS), Sue Buto (USGS), Peter Steeves (USGS), John Gaiot (Ontario MNR), Judy Kwan (ECCC), Kim Jones (USGS). Credit: NOAA-GLERL


IJC staff