Blog Post #40 – Watershed Knowledge Data

Watershed Knowledge and Data


Effective watershed management requires everyone involved to have access to the tools, knowledge, and information they need to inform their decisions. Achieving watershed security in a sustainable way will require insights from a diversity of knowledge sources: local residents and stewards, Indigenous peoples, and scientists. Education, communication, and engagement can increase the public’s awareness and understanding of water issues and cultivate a stewardship ethic. It can also empower local communities and strengthen the political mandate to conserve and protect water.

Scientific Knowledge

Scientific information includes the data and analysis collected from monitoring programs and the results of scientific research. Monitoring programs measure quantity and quality of the water associated with different uses and values, for instance, recreation, conservation, drinking water, agriculture, ecosystem health, industry, or cultural uses.

Scientific knowledge also relies on specific methods to collect and analyze data. Collecting reliable data can be a challenging process: watershed sites and conditions vary and not everyone has access to the same equipment or training.

Indigenous Knowledge

Indigenous knowledge is wholistic, place-based knowledge comprising spiritual, cultural, and historical wisdom, direct observations, and practical knowledge. This knowledge is owned by Indigenous communities or families and is shared by knowledge keepers only with their permission and according to established protocols. Respecting local protocols is critical to building trust and supporting Indigenous information governance and data sovereignty.

Knowledge Transfer and Extension

Knowledge transfer is the process of communicating knowledge to another person with different training and perspectives. Knowledge exchange is the process of co-developing knowledge across cultural, disciplinary or sector boundaries. Both are important steps towards the use of knowledge in watershed governance.

Different people need information in different forms. For example, scientists need good quality ‘raw’ data, whereas other groups may need this information interpreted and put into context. Decision-makers and technical advisors need specific information to inform action. The public often requires information to be brief, communicated in common language, and supported by visual aids.

Developing dedicated knowledge extension programs can help with ongoing exchange of information. Relationships built on trust and a willingness to understand and work with different forms of knowledge are key to increasing collaboration in water management.