Freshwater Atlas

The Freshwater Atlas is a standardized dataset for mapping British Columbia's hydrological features. The atlas defines watershed boundaries and provides a connected network of streams, lakes and wetlands. This network serves as the foundation for sophisticated analysis and modelling.

The quality of B.C.’s water is a reflection of the environmental, economic and social well-being of our province. The Freshwater Atlas has been developed as a management tool to ensure freshwater resources in B.C. are sustained for future generations.

What's New

Product Details

The Freshwater Atlas was designed to be the definitive source for mapping freshwater features in B.C. The atlas provides a consistent base and coding system, ensuring the Province’s various freshwater-related inventories are tied to a common base.

Freshwater Atlas data is generally dense. Data should be displayed at a scale greater than 1:75,000 for best results. The dataset is available in ARC_SDE format and BC Albers projection.

Navigate through Freshwater Atlas data with the help of an application based on Web Map Service (WMS) standards. Create your own maps and views by combining Freshwater Atlas data with other provincial datasets.


A high-level overview of intended and potential uses of Freshwater Atlas data:

The following documents provide guidance on accessing Freshwater Atlas data:

Descriptions of Freshwater Atlas data available from the B.C. Geographic Warehouse (BCGW):

Freshwater Atlas Visualization

The Freshwater Atlas (FWA) was completed in the fall of 2009 and is a standardized dataset for mapping the province's hydrological features. The atlas defines watershed boundaries by height of land and provides a connected network of streams, lakes and wetlands.  Each stream in the province has its own watershed (the land drained by that stream) but it is also linked to the other streams and watersheds around it.

As technology has advanced we have been able to portray the information contained in the FWA database as a visual to show upstream and downstream flow. The Fresh Water Atlas Visualization is helpful for planners, responders and other business areas to be able to see what lies downstream or upstream of an intended project or incident. This application represents a proof of concept to show how the upstream and downstream can be portrayed and it outlines how a user could attach other information to the streams for a specific business purpose. Although this core application only has the streams portrayed we have tested the application with information such as Points of Diversion, and Environmental Monitoring sites to show what is impacted upstream or downstream.

Proof of concept application

If your business area is interested in a customized application please contact for more information.

How to Acquire

Freshwater Atlas data can be viewed through the iMapBC application. Open iMapBC in an Internet Explorer browser:

Freshwater Atlas data for Ceakamus River Basin and Nanaimo River Basin can be opened in Google Earth:

Download the Freshwater Atlas for the entire Province of British Columbia:

Freshwater Atlas datasets can be downloaded from the B.C. Data Catalogue:




Freshwater Atlas dataset

No charge


Watersheds are bounded by heights of land, which provide the definitive reference for many administrative boundaries and land tenures. Each stream in the Province of B.C. has its own watershed, but is also linked to the other streams and watersheds around it. The Freshwater Atlas allows users to connect a stream to both its tributaries and the watersheds associated with them.

This document provides the background, objectives, principles and production methods for a new standard delineation of assessment watersheds for British Columbia: