In November 2018, we convened a gathering of the Ottawa River Watershed Network, where more than 50 participants spent half a day exploring how to improve data sharing and enhance collaboration efforts. Following some enlightened words of wisdom about the significance of traditional water knowledge from one of several Algonquin Nation participants, we briefly reviewed Environment and Climate Change Canada’s recent public consultations and draft report on the values, health, and potential governance approaches in the Ottawa River Watershed. The next steps in this process will unfold over the winter months and we look to ECCC to keep the public informed.
At the meeting, we also introduced the Info-Hub, a new online platform designed to feature the different organizations that are active in the watershed, facilitate the sharing of information and resources, and highlight collaborative projects that bring together different partners. Called Réseau Collaboration Network, this bilingual portal is created and managed by Ottawa Riverkeeper. As we develop and grow the user-driven platform, we will do our best to adapt it to evolving needs. The success of the new tool will depend on the level of engagement from all groups. We were delighted to see that participants support this initiative.
Finally, we presented an update on the ongoing Watershed Health Assessment. With funding support from ECCC, Ville de Gatineau, and Fondation Écho, we are conducting research on indicators of the ecological health of the Ottawa River Watershed. Looking at quantitative data and trends over time, these indicators will help to monitor changes in river health and inform decisions and policies. To accelerate progress on the assessment, participants were invited to send their input and share relevant data sources.
The gathering was an excellent opportunity for these allies of the watershed to reconnect, meet new players, discuss issues of common concern, and look to the future. Based on everyone’s eagerness to network and collaborate, the future of our watershed looks very bright!
As a result of political boundaries, historical allocation of legislative authorities, and patterns of human settlement and use, the Ottawa River and its watershed are subject to overlapping laws, policies, and priorities of the federal government, two provincial governments, numerous agencies and organizations, First Nation communities, industry, and more than 200 municipalities located within the watershed.
2015: Ottawa Riverkeeper hosted the Ottawa River Summit, a gathering of more than 200 people and dozens of organizations and decision-makers, including the then ministers of the Environment for Ontario and Québec. Summit participants co-created the Gatineau Declaration, an action agenda for an integrated approach to sustainable water management within the Ottawa River Watershed. More than 1,500 groups and individuals signed the Gatineau Declaration.
2016: Following on the Declaration, members of our watershed community came together to consider the creation of an inclusive, collaborative, multi-sectoral Ottawa River Watershed Council.
2017: A detailed Discussion Paper was published recommending the creation of a Council. You can read it here.
2018: In preparation for the establishment of a more formal structure, we continued to build and develop relationships with a wide range of groups, including Conservation Authorities, Organismes de bassin versant, First Nations, municipalities, boating and angler associations, research institutes, and others. We think of these groups of river lovers and stewards as Allies in the pursuit of a healthy and dynamic watershed.
That is why we are in the process of creating an online portal, or Info-Hub, where these Allies will be able to showcase local achievements, share insights from collaborative projects, promote best practices, and eventually begin to address watershed-scale issues such as water pollution, flooding, fish migration, shoreline restoration, and many more.
Our vision for this Network of Allies is shaped by our joint dedication to making the Ottawa River watershed an ideal place to swim-drink-fish for generations to come.