Watershed Health Committee

Composition

The Watershed Health Committee is an advisory body of Ottawa Riverkeeper. It is made up of approximately 20 volunteer experts from academia, environmental organizations, and government agencies with an interest in the health and future of the Ottawa River watershed.

Mandate

The Watershed Health Committee is assisting Ottawa Riverkeeper as we design and lead an assessment of the health of the Ottawa River. Through regular meetings and workshops, the Committee is examining the wide range of data sources, indicators, and monitoring protocols in use across the watershed, and helping us build a model that will serve as the main tool for the assessment.

Purpose

The results of this exercise, presented in the form of an online report-card, will reinforce transparency and collaboration, strengthen data sharing networks, and be of significant value to residents and recreational users of the watershed. This assessment will lay the foundation for our understanding of the impacts and trends at play in the watershed. It is our hope that it will inform decision-makers at all levels of government as they plan a safe and sustainable future for the next generations of river users.

Background

With its 146,300 km² surface, more than 200 municipalities, dozens of rivers and reservoirs, countless lakes, our watershed is a complex system of inter-related bodies of water that are affected by nature’s rhythms, human activity, and climate change.

In 2015, Ottawa Riverkeeper hosted the Ottawa River Summit, a gathering of community-based groups, environmental organizations, and government agencies whose respective responsibilities include the leading, monitoring, or regulation of various recreational or commercial activities in the watershed.

As a result of the Summit, participants, and more than 1,500 interested individuals, signed the Gatineau Declaration, a co-created action plan for a shared and integrated approach to protecting and restoring our great river.

Among other recommendations, the Declaration called for the identification of a set of indicators to monitor and report on as benchmarks of our watershed’s health. This led to the formation of the Watershed Health Committee.

Latest News

At its most recent meeting in March 2018, the Committee continued to examine the different types of data being collected by conservation groups, municipalities, and government agencies to assess the health of the watershed. Committee members also discussed how to integrate traditional knowledge so that it can complement the work currently being done to test water quality, determine the impact of urban development on shorelines, and gauge the distribution of animal and plant species, among other measures of watershed health.