Ottawa Riverkeeper welcomes federal investment to engage communities in monitoring the watershed

Ottawa, May 29 2019. Ottawa Riverkeeper warmly welcomes the federal government’s decision to fund research and community-based monitoring (CBM) to better understand the health of the Ottawa River watershed. Announced this morning by Catherine McKenna, Minister of Environment and Climate Change (ECCC), the investment totalling $275,000 over two years will help fill key data gaps and mobilize a broad network of communities and citizen scientists to protect swimmable, drinkable and fishable waters.

Supporting indigenous leadership and tracking climate change in the watershed

The new research project, to be led by Ottawa Riverkeeper, will be based primarily on a set of watershed health indicators identified through consultations with experts in Ontario and Québec. Nine Algonquin communities were engaged in the process, identifying priority indicators and providing key recommendations. The new project builds on these recommendations to support Indigenous leadership and stewardship, providing funds to hire four field technicians to monitor waterways.

Indigenous communities are acutely aware of the ecological changes occurring in the watershed and are stewards of some of the most important areas to monitor. We are excited to see this work unfold and look forward to building on our collaborations to co-design projects with more communities in the future”, said Larissa Holman, Director of Science and Policy at Ottawa Riverkeeper.

Several of the watershed health indicators to be studied will involve CBM and citizen science. “Through community-based monitoring, Ottawa Riverkeeper has already assembled the world’s largest network of citizen scientists tracking microplastics pollution in freshwater. Thanks to this federal investment, we’ll be able to replicate this success with other indicators of watershed health, including several related to climate change such as ice conditions, spread of invasive species, and toxic algal blooms”, remarked Patrick Nadeau, Executive Director of Ottawa Riverkeeper.

Enabling data-driven decision-making across the watershed

By making results and references readily available to the public, this project will provide a solid basis for data-driven decision-making in the Ottawa River watershed, which includes two provinces, 11 indigenous communities, and over 200 municipalities. Such decision-making must also be improved by better mechanisms for communication and collaboration across the watershed, as seen again during the recent widespread flooding.

“Our long-standing position is that this watershed needs greater coordination between all orders of government – federal, provincial, indigenous and municipal – along with private sector interests and civil society. As we gather important data on our watershed’s health through this project, we will continue to advocate for the creation of an Ottawa River Watershed Council so that governments and stakeholders can jointly tackle complex issues, such as flooding and invasive species, more effectively”, concluded Mr. Nadeau.

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For questions and interviews, please contact:

MJ Proulx
Director, Watershed Network
Ottawa Riverkeeper
613-884-332

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