Ottawa – September 9th, 2020. 92% of residents agree that the Ottawa River makes living in the area much better, according to a new survey. Abacus Data, one of Canada’s leading polling firms, recently teamed up with Ottawa Riverkeeper to investigate local attitudes towards the Ottawa River. Together, the two organizations crafted a survey to better understand what residents who live alongside the waterway value about this heritage river, and what worries them about its future. The two groups have compiled a report to share with the wider community, and to highlight some of the statistics which will underpin Ottawa Riverkeeper’s work, goals, and strategic vision moving forward.
Most evident from the data is that the river is extremely important to the residents of the watershed. 82% say that it is important to their quality of life. This belief has long been core to Ottawa Riverkeeper’s mission, but now with the data to back it up the organization can be confident that its mandate to protect, promote and improve the ecological health and future of the river is important to the wider community. Further, when asked about the value to the economy, tourism, and the environment, respondents overwhelmingly agreed that the Ottawa river was important, with over 85% support for each.
Much like Ottawa Riverkeeper itself, residents are also concerned about threats to the health of the river. 69% of those surveyed often worry about the wellbeing of the river. When asked if they swim in the river, over 50% of respondents said that they never do. Overwhelmingly, the number one reason for this reluctance is the perception that the river is not clean enough. Sadly, this perception may get in the way of people’s full enjoyment of this amazing resource on their doorstep.
A clear example of this is that 58% of those surveyed identified sewage as having a major impact on the cleanliness of the river. The population of the watershed may be underestimating the progress that has been made on issues such as pollution from Combined Sewer Overflows, and the resources that are available to mitigate these risks. Checking water quality before getting in the water can be a way to inform yourself of the safety of swimming, yet only 66% of those who swim in the river do so most of the time.
With these new insights, Ottawa Riverkeeper can better act as the voice of the Ottawa River to the people living in its watershed. Through education, science, monitoring and community engagement, the organization seeks to promote this wonderful asset to our region. The concept that “people protect what they love” has long been a pillar of the non-profit’s work. Ottawa Riverkeeper recently held its annual Riverkeeper Gala which celebrates those who love the river, though they forwent an in person event this year. Abacus Data was a top sponsor of the event. Now, thanks to this partnership and new data that tells a story of deep love and support for the river in the watershed, Ottawa Riverkeeper has reinforced the importance of its mission and mandate.