Watershed Health Committee

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In May 2019, we completed our report, Assessing the Health of the Ottawa River Watershed: Phase One.

We thank the following funders for supporting this project, the first of its kind in the Ottawa River watershed:
– Environment and Climate Change Canada / Environnement et Changement climatique Canada
– Echo Foundation / Fondation Écho
– Ville de Gatineau (Fonds Vert)

In preparing this report, we consulted with a wide range of organizations and individuals whose mandates include the protection, promotion, and/or regulation of the Ottawa River and its tributaries. The members of the Watershed Health Committee were instrumental in this process that led to the development of a conceptual framework. We also solicited the input of other experts throughout the watershed, including Conservation Authorities, Organismes de bassin versant, Indigenous communities, peer NGOs, academics, and municipal staff. All played a role in helping us identify available data sets and accessing certain sources of information and knowledge.

Over several months, an immense amount of data was collected and analyzed. Led by Prof. Mary Trudeau, this unprecedented research produced a short-list of indicators that should be monitored, but also highlighted significant gaps that must be filled before a robust assessment of watershed health can be conducted. Our report introduces a list of detailed recommendations that, if implemented, would lay the groundwork for the next phase in our quest for a better understanding of the water resources we are stewarding for the next generations.

Read the Report Here!

Stay tuned for soon-to-be-released information about Phase Two of this project!
 

Composition

The Watershed Health Committee is an advisory body of Ottawa Riverkeeper. It is made up of approximately 20 volunteer experts from academia, environmental organizations, and government agencies with an interest in the health and future of the Ottawa River watershed.

Mandate

The Watershed Health Committee is assisting Ottawa Riverkeeper as we design and lead an assessment of the health of the Ottawa River. Through regular meetings and workshops, the Committee is examining the wide range of data sources, indicators, and monitoring protocols in use across the watershed, and helping us build a model that will serve as the main tool for the assessment.

Purpose

The results of this exercise, presented in the form of an online report-card, will reinforce transparency and collaboration, strengthen data sharing networks, and be of significant value to residents and recreational users of the watershed. This assessment will lay the foundation for our understanding of the impacts and trends at play in the watershed. It is our hope that it will inform decision-makers at all levels of government as they plan a safe and sustainable future for the next generations of river users.

Background

With its 146,300 km² surface, more than 200 municipalities, dozens of rivers and reservoirs, countless lakes, our watershed is a complex system of inter-related bodies of water that are affected by nature’s rhythms, human activity, and climate change.

In 2015, Ottawa Riverkeeper hosted the Ottawa River Summit, a gathering of community-based groups, environmental organizations, and government agencies whose respective responsibilities include the leading, monitoring, or regulation of various recreational or commercial activities in the watershed.

As a result of the Summit, participants, and more than 1,500 interested individuals, signed the Gatineau Declaration, a co-created action plan for a shared and integrated approach to protecting and restoring our great river.

Among other recommendations, the Declaration called for the identification of a set of indicators to monitor and report on as benchmarks of our watershed’s health. This led to the formation of the Watershed Health Committee.

At a meeting in March 2018, the Committee continued to examine the different types of data being collected by conservation groups, municipalities, and government agencies to assess the health of the watershed. Committee members also discussed how to integrate traditional knowledge so that it can complement the work currently being done to test water quality, determine the impact of urban development on shorelines, and gauge the distribution of animal and plant species, among other measures of watershed health.

2018: A Stakeholder Gathering to Propel the Watershed Health Assessment

Several members of the Watershed Health Committee attended the Gathering of the Ottawa River Watershed Network in November 2018, where the research project on Health Indicators was presented and discussed with a wide range of stakeholders. Input was collected on the research protocol, selection of potential indicators, availability of data sets, and the importance of seeking and integrating traditional knowledge. Work on this project is led by Mary Trudeau and progressing steadily toward the production of a first report in April 2019.