It’s report card time, for conservation authorities. We recently released our Watershed Report Card in collaboration with Conservation Ontario, which provides a snapshot of the environmental health of the Credit River Watershed. The report card is graded on three environmental factors:
- Surface water quality in streams
- Forest conditions
- Groundwater quality
Just like school report cards, the Watershed Report Card uses letter grades ranging from A (Excellent) to F (Very Poor) to demonstrate which areas are doing well and which areas could benefit most from land and water management.
By understanding these conditions, we can make informed decisions on where to target our environmental work when it comes to restoration, ecosystem enhancement and management of our environment.
What Did We Find?
Surface Water Quality
Surface water quality received an average grade of C across the watershed. Rural streams in the upper and middle watershed scored higher grades, ranging from B to C. Urban streams in the lower watershed tended to receive D and F grades.
To determine the surface water quality, we measured phosphorus and bacteria levels at stream stations and assessed the health of benthic macroinvertebrates, which are small aquatic animals living in stream sediment.
Poor water quality can be harmful to fish and other aquatic life. For example, high concentrations of nutrients can cause too much algae to grow, which reduces the amount of oxygen in streams, affecting the health of aquatic life.
Forests in the Credit River Watershed received an average grade of C.
Land use and cover influences these grades. The rural middle and upper watershed scored higher grades whereas the urban lower watershed tended to score on the low end with grades ranging from C through F. These areas are impacted by human activities have less natural cover.
Interior forest habitat is one of the factors that contribute to the grades in the lower watershed. Interior habitat are locations away from forest edges. Many animal species need interior habitat as they are sensitive to noise, light pollution and other human impacts associated with forest edges.
Learn more about the importance of interior forest habitat.
Groundwater quality scored mostly A and B across the watershed.
Three wells in the middle and lower watershed received grades of F, indicating groundwater did not meet provincial drinking water standards. Groundwater quality depends on both the nature of the aquifer through which groundwater flows as well as potential contamination sources. For example, faulty septic systems, leaks from fuel storage tanks or application of winter road salt may contaminate groundwater. The faster a contaminant moves through the soil and rock layers into the aquifer, the more vulnerable the groundwater is to contamination.
What Can You Do?
While some parts of the watershed continue to show good to excellent conditions in our local environment, other parts of the watershed are impacted by human activities. We all play a role in protecting and improving our local environment and you can help.
- Get involved with us. Find events and activities you can participate in.
- Take action on your property. We offer technical advice and resources for landowners including sustainable landscaping workshops, tree planting programs and more! Discover how we can help you green your property.
- Help us develop a new watershed plan for the Credit River Watershed. Share your thoughts in our online survey.
- Explore and appreciate our incredible local environment and be inspired to enhance, protect and restore.
By Adrienne Ockenden, Watershed Monitoring Specialist