Clean water is vital for a healthy watershed ecosystem. Clean water supports diverse aquatic habitats, enhances recreational potential and improves the well-being of those who use it. Environmental monitoring efforts provide information on surface and groundwater quality and quantity, important data that allows LPRCA staff to identify changes taking place within the watershed.
Water monitoring has become increasingly important with growing pressures on surface and groundwater resources; development next to lakes, watercourses and wetlands; and climate change having unforeseen and possibly dramatic impacts on the water supply. Throughout the watershed, LPRCA collects standardized scientific data through established monitoring programs.
Chemical analysis and identification of aquatic bugs are good indicators of water quality and stream habitat.
Since 2002, LPRCA has monitored surface water quality as part of the Ministry of the Environment, Conservation and Parks (MECP) Provincial Water Quality Monitoring Network (PWQMN) and the Ontario Benthos Biomonitoring Network. Water samples are collected monthly (March to October) at 10 locations and are analyzed for various parameters including chloride, nutrients and metals. The sampling sites have been established in strategic locations throughout the watershed to ensure that monitoring covers a broad range of catchment areas. Following high rainfall events, water samples are collected as part of the MECP Nutrient Sampling Program.
Groundwater quality is often determined by natural conditions, but changes in quality may indicate human impact. In an effort to improve understandings of Ontario’s groundwater resources, the Provincial Groundwater Monitoring Network (PGMN) was established in 2001. The PGMN is designed to provide reliable information on the state of Ontario’s groundwater and act as an early warning system for changes in water levels and water quality. The Network is a partnership between the Ministry of the Environment, Conservation and Parks and Ontario’s 36 Conservation Authorities.
In the Long Point Region watershed there are 11 PGMN wells that collect baseline groundwater level and quality information from eight aquifers. Quarterly, groundwater level data are downloaded from the wells and processed for analysis. Water samples are collected each fall at three of the well and are tested for a variety of parameters including nutrients, metals and bacteria.
The collected data help develop long-terms trends in groundwater conditions that can help identify and predict significant changes.
Aquatic communities and the habitats that support them are natural sensors that respond to stresses affecting aquatic ecosystems and can be used as indicators of overall ecosystem health.
Benthic macroinvertebrates are small aquatic ‘bugs’ that live in lakes, rivers, streams and wetlands. These bottom-dwelling organisms are good indicators of water quality because different species have different tolerances for pollution. The presence, absence or abundance of specific species can be related to the quality of the water.
LPRCA staff collect and identify benthic macroinvertebrates on an annual basis. Samples are collected at 15 locations each fall, using a standard ‘kick and sweep’ method with a D-net. Samples are collected in support of the Ontario Benthos Biomonitoring Network (OBBN), a MECP program.
By collecting and analyzing benthic organisms, LPRCA can identify changes in surface water quality over time.
Stream temperature affects every aquatic organism as rates of biological and chemical processes depend on temperature. Aquatic organisms from microbes to fish depend on certain temperature ranges for optimal health. If temperatures are outside of a species optimal range for prolonged periods of time, the organisms can become stressed and die.
LPRCA conducts surface water temperature studies throughout the watershed. Data is collected using a network of more than 25 digital temperature loggers that are installed in the spring and removed in the fall. This data is used for identifying fish habitat, measuring benefits of stream rehabilitation projects and creating watercourse temperature profiles.
When needed, LPRCA conducts project-specific biological surveys to document existing aquatic species. Fish species are a convenient measure of the health of an aquatic system since they are easy to sample and identify and are relatively well understood in terms of ecological requirements.
Water is critical to all aspects of our lives and it is important that we ensure there is a safe and reliable source of water for all our uses. Everyone should be able to trust that the water they drink is safe. Protecting the sources of our drinking water – lakes, rivers or underground aquifers – is the first step in ensuring safe drinking water. All of these sources of water are linked in a watershed through the water cycle. It is important to protect these sources of drinking water from becoming contaminated or depleted because it can be expensive or impossible to correct. This is the goal of source water protection.
In 2000, the Walkerton tragedy showed us how vulnerable our drinking water can be when not managed properly. The Clean Water Act was passed in 2006 by the Ontario legislature to protect municipal drinking water sources throughout Ontario.
Under the Clean Water Act, conservation authorities are grouped together into source protection regions for the purpose of sharing resources and expertise. Four conservation authorities that manage watersheds along the north shore of Lake Erie work together as the Lake Erie Source Protection Region; they are:
Each watershed has its own source protection plan that is administered locally. LPRCA has worked with local municipalities, stakeholders and the public to develop a Source Protection Plan that serves to protect municipal drinking water while taking into account the other needs of our communities. The Long Point Region Source Protection Plan can be found on the Lake Erie Source Protection Region website, alongside additional information about the Clean Water Act and drinking water source protection.
For additional resources, visit Ontario’s website.