Hi all,

During these uncertain times of COVID-19, GIS users all over the world have created dashboards using Esri technology to have real-time feeds of current spread of the virus. Before this pandemic started, I had the opportunity to participate in the ECCE App Challenge during Reading Week in mid-February at the University of Waterloo. Fortunately, this was before social distancing measures had kicked in across Canada. Hence, I was able to work together with my two teammates, Robert Arku and Misha Kuzma, to create an application. This year, the topic was Health, which was extremely relevant due to the ongoing coronavirus. However, at the time, since we were the first team to complete the challenge in mid-February, there were only a few confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Canada. Around this time, there was mainly news of large scale spread in China and the East Asian countries in addition to Italy and a few European countries. Therefore, we decided that it was not a big enough issue yet to investigate in Canada. There were very few cases in Canada and America. However, at around this time, which seems like a lifetime ago due to the current quarantine, there were issues of Indigenous protests in Ontario as there were blockades of Indigenous protesters set up around critical rail lines and transportation networks. We decided to look at this issue further. We did research and looked at current events in addition to past news and discovered that the main issue with current and past Indigenous protests is the threat of disruption to Indigenous communities caused by the construction of oil pipelines. We decided to connect this issue to environmental health as the topic of the App Challenge was Health in general. Hence, we investigated the impact of oil pipelines on water quality and how this impacts the health of both the Indigenous people who use this water and the health of the surrounding environment. This fits in well with two of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). SDG 3: Good health and well-being is to ensure healthy lives and promote well-being for all at all ages. SDG 6: Clean water and sanitation aims at ensuring access to clean water and sanitation for all. We used these two SDGs to form the framework for this application.

We decided as a group that we would develop an Operations Dashboard application to investigate the impact of oil pipelines on water quality of water bodies in the province of Alberta and analyze how this would impact the health of the Indigenous people living in communities and the health of the environment. The reason we chose Alberta was that this province has the highest number of pipelines in the country. In addition, there are many Indigenous communities that reside close to bodies of water and many pipelines intersect with these water bodies. We decided to title our application UPHILL (Understanding Petroleum and Health of Indigenous Life and Land) and our team name was the UPHILL Climbers.

Team UPHILL Climbers

Outlined below is the process we took to develop this application:

We searched for data such as the boundary file for the province of Alberta, pipelines in Alberta, pipeline incidents in Alberta, Indigenous communities in Alberta, water bodies in Alberta, and drinking water advisories within Indigenous communities. The data was incorporated using ArcGIS Pro. All of the point data including all three incident types for pipelines (Release of Substance, Operation Beyond Design Limits, and Fire pipeline incidents) and water advisories, line data including pipelines, polygon data including indigenous territories and water bodies, and raster data including the DEM of Alberta were loaded into ArcGIS Pro. The incident point data was combined into one dataset. A 3D scene was set up by loading in the DEM of Alberta as the elevation source. The vertical exaggeration of the elevation source to reflect uphill/downhill and upriver/downriver dynamics between Indigenous communities and pipeline incidents. The data was symbolized and processed and uploaded onto ArcGIS Online. Within ArcGIS Online, an Operations Dashboard was created. Within the operations dashboard, there was a 2D web map that was connected to the statistics shown in the app. The pie chart showed a summary of total pipeline length owned by each corporate holder. Two indicator elements for ‘boil water’ and ‘do not consume’ water advisories were displayed to show the number of water advisories within the display extent of the 2D web map. A bar chart showing number and type of pipeline incidents was created. A rich text element was added to include instructions on how to use the app and an introduction to the app.

UPHILL application user interface

Regarding the characteristics of the app, the web map provides an overview of the spatial context for the effects of pipeline incidents on water health. In combination with the Operations Dashboard, the 2D web map acts as a spatial filter for charts and graphs, allowing on-the-fly statistics for specific extents and areas. This feature allows users to find specific case studies for investigating Indigenous health in Alberta. Using ArcGIS Pro, 3D visualization of the data to get a more on-the-ground view of the information is possible. A 3D visualization can help make the data more visually interesting and engaging to a user exploring the scene. It also allows for a more detailed visual analysis, as a user can see how elevation differences occur across the space, and how a leakage of petrol products might flow into nearby water bodies. ArcGIS Online has access to a wide variety of tools and apps, including Operations Dashboard. Combining the web map and 3D visualization, it is possible to create an informative dashboard that updates and filters data as a user zooms and pans around the map. The dynamic charts, graphs and indicators can help serve an informative role in the dashboard.

This application is meant to be used by Indigenous communities, governments and oil corporations to help understand the negative impacts of pipeline construction on the environmental health of water and human health of Indigenous communities and put measures into place so that these negative effects can be mitigated. This app can be adapted to multiple scenarios with the health of Indigenous communities in other provinces of Canada where oil pipeline activities take place. Hopefully, once this pandemic is over, more steps can be taken by the government and private corporations to further re-conciliate with Indigenous communities throughout Canada.

Stay safe and healthy everyone,
Manpreet Singh Chahal