Recent attention to the water quality at municipal beaches has helped shine a spotlight on some of the larger issues facing the Ottawa River. However, there continues to be a huge gap in water quality information on the river.
There is not one government agency that continually collects water quality information on a wide-scale basis for analysis. Water quality monitoring is piecemeal throughout the watershed, and there are currently no monitoring programs designed to answer questions about water quality trends in the mainstem of the river over time.
Water quality monitoring is performed by industry and some municipalities (e.g., pulp mills, Chalk River Laboratories, wastewater treatment plants, etc.). However, this information is difficult to find and often isn’t available to the public. The data collected by industry is not for the purpose of addressing water quality trends in the Ottawa River over time. Instead it is taken to monitor compliance with environmental regulations and guidelines.
Ontario Government’s Monitoring
The Province of Ontario has a Provincial Water Quality Monitoring Program that was started in 1964 by the Ministry of the Environment. The program has a mandate to collect surface water quality information from strategic stream and river locations across Ontario. The goal is to assess long-term changes in water quality. However, this program is mainly implemented through the conservation authorities, so monitoring stations are only found on the tributaries of the Ottawa where conservation authorities exist (i.e., Mississippi, Rideau and South Nation). Provincial agencies do not publish long-term trend data or assessments.
Rideau Valley Conservation Authority’s Monitoring
The Rideau Valley Conservation Authority has gathered information on surface water quality in the Rideau River for over 37 years.
Many community and stewardship groups are performing their own, independent water quality monitoring to assess the health of their local stream or lake. In the Ottawa River Watershed, we are aware of the following water quality programs:
- The Friends of the Gatineau River
- H~2~O Chelsea
- Bonnechere River Watershed Project
Please contact us if your group is monitoring local water quality.