Healthy Water, Healthy People – Our Relationship to Water

The Ganaraska Conservation Authority (GRCA) has carried out a local watershed monitoring report to help protect the water, land, and future of the area under its jurisdiction. The report reflects contemporary watershed conditions and future anticipated changes related to climate change and population growth. The results are shared with partner municipalities and other external agencies to inform planning and watershed management, including the development of watershed plans, resource efficiency, and community interests in order to manage water resources sustainably. As our understanding of the interplay between riverine systems and the landscape has grown, effective solutions, which work with nature, rather than against it, are becoming more important than ever.

In order to assess or conceptualize potential issues within a watershed, enough information must be available to define vulnerabilities and risks. Monitoring is an important characterization procedure for this purpose; showing whether things are going to plan and helping to identify and solve problems quickly. The GRCA carries out several monitoring activities, including terrestrial, aquatic, climatological, ground and surface water quantity and quality measurements. The Ganaraska Region Monitoring Report provides a snapshot of the current conditions with respect to quality and quantity of water, land use and land cover patterns, and fisheries.

Overall, the natural features of the GRCA watershed are in good condition. However, to continue enjoying the benefits of clean water and healthy lakes and rivers, we need to fundamentally change the way we use and treat water. Water is in fact many things: it is a vital need, a home, a local and regional resource, a transport corridor and a climate regulator. Sadly, over the last two centuries, it has become the end of the journey for many pollutants released to nature.

As a public agency partner, the GRCA utilizes indicators that are monitored, which are chosen to be consistent with the provincial guidelines. For example, phosphorus and nitrogen levels are monitored in streams to evaluate the impacts of nutrient sources and the potential for excessive plant growth and algae blooms. Water quality monitoring results are compared to drinking water criteria to determine if human uses of water resources are protected. Phosphorus concentrations have declined steadily over the past decade. This may be a result of best management practices and policies aiming to reduce the application of phosphorous in many products. While increasing phosphorus is not an issue at the present, careful monitoring should still be applied, considering that it is often the nutrient limiting in an ecosystem and can lead to increased algae blooms. On the other hand, nitrogen, if ever so minimal, is increasing. At this time, there are no concerns regarding this nutrient existing in the GRCA watershed.

Current projections of climatic change strongly support the expectation that during the next few decades, temperatures will continue to increase locally and globally. In addition, a shift in spatial and temporal patterns of temperature and precipitation is expected. The consequences of such a change may have impacts on water resources. The GRCA continues its monitoring efforts, taking into account social, economic and environmental demands to achieve balancing human and environmental needs.

Read the full report here, or to view a story map highlighting the results of the GRCA’s Watershed Monitoring Report, please find it here.

Written By: Jessica Mueller, Watershed Hydrogeologist, GRCA