WINTER 2008/09

Conservation Ontario E-News provides information and updates on issues about Conservation Authorities.

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Ontario’s 36 Conservation Authorities are community-based resource management organizations that manage Ontario’s water and land resources on a watershed basis in partnership with government, agencies and landowners.




Because our lives are directly affected by the health of our land and water resources, there is a growing interest by residents, municipalities and agencies to understand the health of our watersheds.

Ontario’s 36 Conservation Authorities carry out watershed monitoring because it helps us to better understand local environmental issues, focus actions to where they are needed most and track progress over time.

This issue of E-NEWS focuses on how Conservation Authorities monitor land and water resources (in partnership with government, agencies and landowners) and report those results to the people who live and work in their watersheds.


Why Do We Need Healthy Watersheds?

What Are We Finding in Ontario’s Watersheds?

What Do Conservation Authorities Monitor?

Conservation Authorities Deliver Programs To Protect & Restore Environment

Getting People Involved



A Watershed is an area of land that drains to a common point such as a stream, river or lake. Along the way, rain, snow and other precipitation travel over and across a wide variety of landscapes – natural and man-made. All eventually drain to the same place.



Safe Drinking Water – people get their drinking water from both groundwater and surface water sources such as lakes and rivers. It is important to protect water at its source to ensure its availability and quality for our use. 

Keeping Fish Safe to Eat – a healthy watershed means healthy habitat for fish that are in turn safe to eat.

Clean Beaches – preventing runoff of pollutants and protecting resources that help to improve water quality (forests and wetlands) improves the overall health of our watersheds and reduces the frequency of beach closings.

Adapting to Climate Change – Building a Stronger Environment – by ensuring resilience in our watersheds, our natural habitats will be better able to adapt to the impacts of climate change.


The information collected by Conservation Authorities, municipalities and provincial partners such as the Ministry of the Environment and the Ministry of Natural Resources is used to ensure healthy communities.


The Ganaraska Region Conservation Authority reports on surface water quality, groundwater quality and terrestrial habitat programs in their 2008 Watershed Report Card.


In its 2007 Report Card, the Nottawasaga Valley Conservation Authority reports on forest, stream and wetland health within the Nottawasaga Valley watershed. 


Kawartha Conservation released its 2008 Watershed Report Card providing an overview of the Kawartha watershed.


Watershed Report Cards Provide a Picture

Several of Ontario’s Conservation Authorities have developed Watershed Report Cards as a means of assessing and reporting on surface water quality, forest conditions and groundwater as well as provide a summary of local watershed features and actions being undertaken locally. 


Conservation Ontario’s 2003 Watershed Reporting Pilot Project  helped guide the preparation of these reports by providing a standardized set of environmental indicators typically used to measure watershed health. These were combined with a scoring scheme to encourage consistency across Conservation Authorities.


These reports provide the public with easily understood environmental information. Examples of Conservation Authority Watershed Report Cards can be found on Conservation Ontario’s website (Conservation Authority Report Cards…)


The Upper Thames River Conservation Authority provides information on 28 watersheds in its second Watershed Report Card released in 2007.


The Ausable Bayfield Conservation Authority’s 2007 Watershed Report Card summarizes the state of the water quality and forest conditions for 16 watersheds that drain into the south-east shore of Lake Huron.




The Raisin Region Conservation Authority conducts Wildlife Monitoring



The Lake Simcoe Region Conservation Authority Watershed Monitoring Reports track water quality, animal population, groundwater and streamflow as well as lake and river monitoring



Central Lake Ontario Conservation Authority participates in the Durham Region Coastal Wetland Monitoring Project assessing the health of 15 wetlands along the north shore of Lake Ontario.



The Toronto & Region Conservation Authority participates in a number of different monitoring programs



Different organisms (benthic invertebrates) tell us different stories about water quality. The Rideau Valley Conservation Authority provides information about how they sample for benthic invertebrates and what they find.


In their Watershed Report Cards, Conservation Authorities monitor three key environmental conditions that are important indicators of a watershed’s health: Forest Conditions, Surface Water Quality and Groundwater Quality.

Forest Cover & Forest Interior – Forests provide habitat and shade; they help to clean our air and water and they protect the soil which promotes water infiltration and reduces both erosion and flooding. Forests also help to cool the land and air – nature’s air conditioner! Conservation Authorities assess the area of their watersheds covered by forest; and the amount of forest “interior” (areas that are more than 100 meters from the forest edge which provides critical habitat for many species including songbirds.

Surface Water Quality – Surface water is the water that makes up our rivers, lakes and streams. Conservation Authorities assess the quality of these water bodies by measuring water chemistry (phosphorous, oxygen) and organisms that live in the sediment at the bottom of streams and rivers.  Some Conservation Authorities also measure bacteria.

Groundwater Quality – Groundwater is the water found beneath the earth’s surface, in water bearing layers known as aquifers. Groundwater is difficult if not impossible to clean once contaminated, so it is critical to protect areas of groundwater recharge. Conservation Authorities monitor water chemistry (nutrients, metals, chloride & nitrates).

Tracking what impacts water quality

Phosphorous occurs naturally and is necessary for the healthy development of plants. Too much phosphorous results in excess plant growth which can hurt fish populations. Sources of phosphorous include: faulty septic systems and fertilizers.

E-coli is a bacteria which occurs in mammal feces – including ours! Bacteria from faulty septic systems and livestock can get into our surface and groundwater sources.

Benthic Invertebrates Conservation Authorities measure phosphorous levels and catalogue different organisms (benthic invertebrates) found in the sediment in stream beds to help determine water quality.


BENTHIC: the bottom area of a stream

INVERTEBRATE:  any animal that does not have an internal skeleton, such as flies, bugs, beetles, leeches, spiders, mites, clams & mussels.


Conservation Authority participate in Provincial Monitoring Networks

Conservation Authorities provide data in conjunction with provincial partners to a variety of provincial monitoring networks including:

Provincial Water Quality Monitoring Network (PWQMN) Conservation Authorities have 400+ sites monitoring surface water conditions for this network.

Provincial Groundwater Monitoring Network (PGMN) Together, Conservation Authorities have 465 groundwater monitoring wells.

Ontario Benthos Biomonitoring Network (OBBN) Conservation Authorities regularly sample benthic invertebrates to determine surface water quality. A total of 25 CAs participate in this network using 1,067 monitoring stations.



The Niagara Peninsula Conservation Authority’s Restoration Program provides stewardship strategies for the Welland River, Niagara River, Twelve Mile Creek and One Mile Creek.


The Hamilton Conservation Authority and the Halton Conservation Authority have partnered to provide their landowners and municipalities with a Watershed Stewardship Program





Conservation Authorities carry out a variety of Watershed stewardship programs which offer landowners practical solutions to protect or improve both water and land resources.

·          A total of 924 water quality improvement projects were completed with over 700 landowners in 2007. Three quarters of these projects were agriculturally based. Grants provided to landowners totaled $4.9 million.

·          Conservation Authorities planted 1.8 million trees in 2007 on 997 hectares of land with just over 1,000 different landowners. Just over half of these projects were on agricultural lands

·          A total of 342 habitat rehabilitation or restoration projects were completed with 401 landowners on almost 500 hectares. These included wetland, habitat projects, shoreline/riparian and stream/fish habitat projects.

·          A total of 356 water supply & septic management projects were completed including decommissioning wells, wellhead protection and private septic systems. Municipalities provided 78% of the funds for these projects.

§          171 projects were undertaken with 13,000 volunteers and community groups.


Rideau Valley Conservation Authority’s Watershed Watch program encourages residents to work with the conservation authority to monitor 35 key lakes in their region.




The Canadian Wildlife Habitat’s Citizen Science monitoring program posts volunteering opportunities, community forums, and monitoring equipment banks for anyone looking for a chance to do hands on monitoring.



Conservation Authorities, often in partnership with other agencies, engage local residents within their watersheds in unique projects that help to collect data on conditions in their watersheds.

Each year, a number of Conservation Authorities partner with other agencies and volunteers for Check Your Watershed Day - an annual, one day event where you can get your feet wet and learn first hand about your watershed.

Kawartha Water Watch is a water monitoring program organized by Kawartha Conservation that partners with cottage associations and other environmental groups to Text Box:  sample lakes and streams within the watershed. Partners provide seed money and pay for testing supplies, while Kawartha Conservation provides the analysis, reporting and administration aspects of the program.

The North Bay – Mattawa Conservation Authority offers a variety of volunteer monitoring opportunities.

Nature Watch is a suite of community-based "citizen science" monitoring programs through which Environment Canada collects data on indicators of ecosystem health. Information is provided for FrogWatch, IceWatch, PlantWatch and WormWatch




This bulletin is produced by:

Conservation Ontario

P.O. Box 11, 120 Bayview Parkway, Newmarket Ontario L3Y 4W3

Tel: 905.895.0716  Email:


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Conservation Ontario represents Ontario’s 36 Conservation Authorities, local watershed management agencies located throughout the province and works in partnership with government, agencies and landowners.