B.C.’s Web Map Services


What is a Web Map Service (WMS)?

A Web Map Service (WMS) is a standard protocol for serving (over the Internet) georeferenced map images and data, which is generated using data from a Geographic Information System (GIS) database.  The Open Geospatial Consortium developed the specification and first published it in 1999.

How do you use Web Map Services (WMS)?

There are two main ways to use WMS services:

  • The first way is through rich client Geographic Information (GIS) desktop applications such as ESRI ArcMap Desktop or QGIS (previously known as Quantum GIS). Instructions on how to consume WMS services via client desktop applications can often be found on their websites. Top clients include  ESRI’s ArcGIS Desktop, ESRI’s ArcGIS Online and QGIS.
  • The second way is through Application Programming Interfaces (API) such as Leaflet, ArcGIS API for Javascript, and Openlayers. These APIs enable developers to build their own applications and maps that consume and display images, maps and data from the Web Map Service (WMS).

What does DataBC offer for WMS?

DataBC offers publicly available Web Map Services (WMS) that allow users to view and query thousands of data layers from the British Columbia Geographic Warehouse (BCGW).  These web services provide current data directly from the BCGW so that you, or users of your web mapping applications can work with the latest authoritative data without needing to repeatedly download the data. All publicly available layers are available according to the industry standard Open Geospatial Consortium (OGC) Web Map Service (WMS) standard specification.

WMS-produced maps are generally rendered in image formats such as PNG, GIF or JPEG, or as vector-based graphical elements such as Scalable Vector Graphics (SVG) or as Keyhole Markup (KML) image overlays or placemark formats. A WMS classifies its geographic information holdings into “Layers” and offers a finite number of predefined “Styles” in which to display those layers. The BCGW WMS offers hundreds of publicly accessible layers with multiple styles associated with each.

As a queryable WMS service offering, users are also able to make requests that provide attribute information regarding features on a map.

Click on this link to get a search result of all B.C. Data Catalogue records with Public WMS available.

Click on this link to get more information on the Web Map Services offered by DataBC.


An Example of DataBC’s WMS in action

An example of an web application that was built to consume DataBC’s Public Web Map Service is the Groundwater Well Search, developed by BC’s Ministry of Forests, Lands, and Natural Resource Operations. The web site allows public users to search for groundwater wells based on several search criteria and creates a map using DataBC’s web map services that show groundwater wells and property boundaries.