Healthy land and water resources ensure safe drinking water and resilient forests, wetlands and wildlife, enabling us to adapt more easily to climate change. Ontario's 36 Conservation Authorities monitor the health of natural resources in Ontario's watersheds because it helps us to better understand the local environmental issues, to focus actions where they are needed the most and track progress over time.
In 2012, Conservation Authorities completed development of Conservation Authority Watershed Report Card Guidelines to assist Conservation Authorities in developing a set of standardized watershed report cards to be launched in 2013.
Conservation Authorities Participate in Provincial Monitoring Networks
Along with their provincial and federal partners, Conservation Authorities collect and provide information to a variety of provincial water 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.
What Are We Finding In Ontario’s Watersheds?
Several of Ontario’s Conservation Authorities have developed Watershed Report Cards as a means of collecting and reporting on surface water quality, forest conditions and groundwater as well as provide a summary of key watershed features and actions being undertaken locally.
These reports provide people and agencies with easily understood environmental information.
Watershed Report Cards: Communicating the Science to Influence Change (Presentation)
What Do Conservation Authorities Monitor?
In their 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).