Human Impacts on the Ottawa River

Given the vast size of the Ottawa River Watershed and the number of people who live here, it is no surprise that the river is under pressure from many different activities. Given our dependence on our natural resources these pressures will always be real. However, if we are to preserve and protect the ecological health of our river system, we must begin to understand and predict what the cumulative impacts of our actions are and find solutions that enable our future generations to safely eat fish and drink water from the river.

Currently, there is no understanding of the total loading of pollutants to the river system from known sources such as municipal and industrial wastewater, let alone from non-point sources such as urban stormwater, agriculture runoff or boating. In addition, there is limited understanding of how the river operates as a system – how the river is shaping itself, responding to the presence of many dams, and increasing impervious areas or resource extraction (forestry, mining) for example. Our baseline data is sparse at best. As an inter-provincial river, these issues are not fully addressed by either province on its banks in terms of a comprehensive watershed study.

The major watershed-scale pressures that are currently threatening the ecological health of the river are: