MVCA monitoring initiatives help ensure our watershed health
Watershed monitoring activities have a large impact on the way the watershed is managed, how landowners understand their region, and how MVCA can successfully continue to meet the needs of the natural environment with the needs of the community.
Monitoring helps staff understand the impacts of land use activities (e.g. urbanization) on water quality so that we can make informed decisions about managing and protecting our water resources. Monitoring also helps staff measure the effectiveness of programs and policies that are designed to protect and restore water quality. Education and stewardship activities also rely on monitoring data to understand where work needs to be done and what areas are models of success. The monitoring programs we run are a mix of local initiatives and part of larger provincial datasets.
Our Watershed Watch program is something unique to MVCA which addresses the vast area of cottage lake country we have and how the lakes change over the seasons and year to year. Another local program that MVCA is just starting up is called City Stream Watch, where staff take volunteers out on streams within the City of Ottawa to assess the stream’s health and identify areas to target with stewardship activities.
There are a number of other programs that we conduct in partnership with provincial agencies such as the Ministry of Natural Resources (MNR), the Ministry of the Environment (MOE) and The Ontario Federation of Anglers and Hunters (OFAH). The data we collect is shared with these agencies so they can assess and track the health of our waterways on a much larger scale.
- Ontario Benthic Biomonitoring Network (OBBN), samples the aquatic insect populations in small wadable streams. Benthic organisms cannot swim away like a fish can so they are considered good indicators of local water and habitat conditions.
- Ontario Stream Assessment Protocol (OSAP) studying fish and fish habitat in wadable streams to gain a better of understanding of which fish are found where in our watershed.
- OBBN and OSAP techniques have been combined with water chemistry sampling into a 5 year study with other eastern Ontario conservation authorities, the MNR, and university partners to assess pristine water ways vs. impacted sites and how this varies across different land forms. This program is called Stream Monitoring Assessment and Research Team Eastern Region (SMARTER).
- The Provincial Water Quality Monitoring Network (PWQMN) is run by the MOE to track water quality at a number of road crossings across our watershed. Water samples are taken once a month during the ice free season, and some survey points have data that goes back decades. Indicators include chloride, nutrients, trace metals and other general chemistry parameters. The information generated by the PWQMN supports the development and implementation of water protection programs and activities such as source protection plans, nutrient management plans, assessing applications for water takings and setting water quality standards.
- The Provincial Groundwater Monitoring Network (PGMN) feeds data into a provincial database run by the Ministry of the Environment on ground water levels, temperature, and water chemistry variables such as chlorides and nitrates. Water level and temperature are taken daily, whereas water chemistry is sampled every fall. These well sites do not necessarily reflect what private well uses are consuming and they should have their water regularly tested by the local Health Unit.
- Invasive Species Monitoring is done as an extension of our Watershed Watch program with the assistance of the Ontario Federation of Anglers and Hunters (OFAH). Three species are targeted with our efforts, Zebra Mussels, Spiny Water Flea, and Rusty Cray fish. We also help spread educational information on other potential invaders.
- Data from all these programs as well as information in our mapping software are combined to create the Watershed Report Card. This document is published every 5 years with the intent of using data that reports the conditions at the outlets of all our subwatersheds and provides direction for increasing sampling and stewardship efforts in a targeted way.