New funding to support development of AI-powered nutrient load prediction system for the Great Lakes

Monday, July 17, 2023

Algae and AI

From data to knowledge

One of the greatest threats to the health of the Great Lakes is the increasing frequency and severity of algal blooms occurring in response to excess nutrients in the water under a warming climate.

These blooms threaten the health and well-being of the communities that depend on the lakes, which provide drinking water for 80 per cent of Ontarians, sustain commercial fisheries, beach quality, shoreline property values, recreational activities, and the overall ecological health of the lakes.

In response to the urgent need to better understand and mitigate human impacts on water quality, the Canadian government pledged to support new approaches and technologies that assess strategies to reduce loadings.

Nandita Basu
Dr. Nandita Basu, a professor at Waterloo and Canada Research Chair in Global Water Sustainability and Ecohydrology has been awarded a Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC) Alliance grant for one such approach.

The project is developing an innovative web-based water quality portal called POSEIDON that is set to change the way we monitor and analyze stream nitrogen and phosphorus concentrations, loads, and landscape inputs, empowering stakeholders with invaluable insights to drive conservation efforts.

Water Institute member Nandita Basu, Professor & Canada Research Chair in Global Water Sustainability and Ecohydrology, Director, Collaborative Water Program, Civil and Environmental Engineering, Earth and Environmental Sciences, University of Waterloo.

Key features and benefits of POSEIDON:

1. Advanced Data Analytics: POSEIDON utilizes cutting-edge algorithms and modeling techniques to analyze vast amounts of water quality data, generating accurate estimates of nitrogen and phosphorus concentrations and loads. Specifically, POSEIDON will utilize machine learning models to predict stream nitrogen and phosphorus concentrations and loads as a function of streamflow, and a suite of landscape attributes such as temperature, slope, precipitation, land use, and nitrogen and phosphorus inputs (e.g., fertilizer, livestock manure, domestic waste). The model will thus allow for the prediction of daily nutrient concentrations and loads in streams without any monitoring data, thus allowing for more effective management of nutrient pollution.

2. Comprehensive Landscape Assessment: POSEIDON goes beyond water quality monitoring by incorporating data on nitrogen and phosphorus inputs to the landscape. By understanding the sources and pathways of these nutrients, stakeholders can develop tailored solutions to mitigate pollution effectively.

3. User-Friendly Interface: The user-friendly interface of POSEIDON makes it accessible to a wide range of users, from researchers to policymakers and community organizations. With intuitive navigation and interactive visualizations, users can explore and interpret complex data effortlessly.

4. Collaborative Platform: POSEIDON fosters collaboration among stakeholders by providing a platform for sharing data, insights, and best practices. This collaborative approach will drive innovation and facilitate the exchange of knowledge, accelerating progress in the field of nutrient pollution management.

"We cannot manage what we do not measure," said Dr. Basu. “Management of nutrient pollution is challenging given there is limited water monitoring data and large gaps in available datasets. By bringing together comprehensive data and advanced analytics, POSEIDON will empower scientists, policymakers, and communities to make evidence-based decisions and implement targeted interventions to address nutrient pollution effectively.

The project is supported by Co-PI Anita Layton, Canada Research Chair in Mathematical Biology and Medicine, and partners across the Great Lakes basin, including Environment and Climate Change Canada, Ministry of the Environment, Conservation and Parks, The Gordon Foundation (DataStream Initiative), and Credit Valley Conservation.

Learn more about Dr. Basu’s research here.