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AquaHacking for the Future of the Ottawa River

AquaHacking is a new app challenge with an environmental focus – on the preservation of the Ottawa River. Presented by the de Gaspé Beaubien Foundation, in partnership with Ottawa Riverkeeper and IBM, AquaHacking aims to take an interdisciplinary approach to improving the health of the Ottawa River by bringing together developers, programmers, mappers, water experts, and just about anyone who is interested in lending their passion and talent to creating a solution for the particular protection challenges of the Ottawa River Watershed.


“One of our greatest challenges [with the Ottawa River] is the geo-political landscape that encompasses our vast watershed,” explains Meredith Brown, Riverkeeper and Executive Director, Ottawa Riverkeeper. “The watershed is 146,000 km2 and is somewhat of a jurisdictional conundrum. Floodplain mapping has not been standardized along the river and developers are left scratching their heads over which maps to use. […] There is very little coordination around monitoring river conditions and therefore the public and decision-makers have no idea if the health of the river is getting better or worse.”

ottawa river

This hackathon marks the first in a series of waterway-restoration events planned over the next few years in Canada. Interested participants can enter a team, or go it alone to develop an app with real-world applications for the Ottawa River. Teams have been given three months to develop their apps, and although the challenge is already underway, there’s still plenty of time to enter and create a winning app. Teams don’t have to go it alone. Organizers are hosting regular meetups and coding days during these three months, where teams can meet with mentors, learn more about the issues, and review their progress.

What kind of solutions are organizers hoping to see? Meredith Brown says that she’s trying to have no expectations so they can be open to all new and innovative ideas. However, she says, “Ottawa Riverkeeper would love to see tools developed to help people understand how much pollution is going into their river and where it is coming from. If we could use technology to help us document/share/categorize the observations we get from all over the watershed, it would be helpful over time to see patterns and trends. That will help us advocate for change in regions with the greatest challenges.”

The top three teams will win the following cash prizes:

  • First place: $10,000
  • Second place: $3,000
  • Third place: $2,000

Teams will present their solutions and winners will be selected at the Ottawa River Summit, taking place at the Hilton Lac Leamy Hotel on May 29-30. To enter your team, register to attend the Summit, or learn more about the AquaHacking project, visit http://aquahacking.com/.

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