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Audit and Evaluation Annual Report 2009–2010

5 Conclusion

5 Conclusion

Reliable data and information concerning the levels and flows of Canada’s lakes and rivers are critically important to continued economic prosperity, the sustainable management of the environment, and the health and safety of Canadians. This information is utilized by all Canadians 24 hours a day, every day, and continues to be an important factor in reducing the impacts on society resulting from hazardous weather and environmental conditions. This information is also required to effectively support policy issues related to water availability and economic development in different regions. It has been estimated (Environment Canada 2004) that water’s measurable contribution to the Canadian economy ranges from $7.5–$23 billion annually, and the amount invested in water monitoring should reflect this economic value.

It is clear that the best method for collecting and archiving hydrometric data, and establishing national standards, is via a nationally coordinated program. Overall, the governance of the National Hydrometric Program is functioning well. The framework exists for participation and delegation of responsibilities among the federal, provincial and territorial Parties. Authorities and responsibilities are reasonably clear and consistent. An accountability regime is in place and operational risks are well assessed. The quality of hydrometric data is constantly being assessed. Decision making is open, transparent and based on consensus.

The National Hydrometric Program has been making great strides in the past several years in improving service delivery to clients. This has been achieved in a context of resource restraints and decreases in the overall number of hydrometric stations. As a result, it is necessary for the program to continue looking for service and technological improvements through innovative, cost effective solutions.

The governance of the National Hydrometric Program would benefit from continuous improvements to: the program’s authorities and responsibilities within Environment Canada and between Environment Canada and INAC; the assessment of strategic risks, the performance of the program in general, and clients’ satisfaction; the establishment of priorities on a client need basis; and communication, exchange of information, learning and innovation.

Halliday (2008) provided a succinct summary of the risks of an inadequate monitoring system, in his history of the Water Survey of Canada:

We cannot begin to address the challenges to the quality of our water and the integrity of our aquatic ecosystems without a fundamental understanding of the natural hydrologic system. It has been said that if we are not measuring it, we are not managing it. Today when water data acquisition, including stream flow monitoring, receives little attention, one can certainly say, “We are not measuring it.” This lack of attention damages Canadian productivity and leaves Canadian citizens vulnerable to both natural and anthropogenic threats to our waters.

The National Hydrometric Program would also benefit from assessing the current network risks and vulnerabilities; evaluating the demands and establishing priorities to ensure the network provides the largest benefits for the financial resources available, and that resources are optimized to address the areas of greatest concerns; and from continuing to look for service and technological improvements through innovative, cost effective solutions, especially in remote locations, through strategic planning.

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