ERCA Releases 2012-2016 Watershed Report Card

Posted on March 23, 2018

The Essex Region Conservation Authority launched its 2012 – 2016 Watershed Report Card, a 5-year watershed checkup, today.  Conservation Authorities across the province rolled out similar reports to mark World Water Day.

“People around the globe are celebrating World Water Day,” said ERCA Chair Rick Fryer. “This year’s theme is Nature for Water, and explores how we can use nature to overcome the water challenges of the 21st century.  Environmental damage, together with climate change, is driving the water-related crises we see around the world. Floods, drought and water pollution are all made worse by degraded vegetation, soil, rivers and lakes.”

Locally, groundwater in the region continues to score excellently, mainly because of protection offered by our hard clay soils.  Surface water quality and forest cover scores are consistently low.

“Surface Water Quality grades range from C – F, with mostly D grades,” explained Dr. Katie Stammler, ERCA’s Water Quality Scientist.  “Some watershed grades lower than in the 2007 – 2011 report can be explained by the inclusion of benthic data.  A few sites changed because average E.coli was higher in the five years of this report than the previous report years. Between the two report cards, E.coli was unchanged at 8 sites, decreased by a letter score at 5 sites and improved by a letter score at 2 sites.”  Phosphorus scores measured the same at all sites between years except Wigle Creek, which is likely attributable to and enhanced monitoring program in this watershed.

Forest conditions also scored low, with most watersheds ranked as a D or an F.  Decreases were due to more stringent measurement standards, not loss of forest habitat.  “It is important to note that the standards of measurement are set across the province.  It would be difficult to achieve a higher score on this scale within our highly agriculturally-based landscape,” said Kevin Money, ERCA’s Director of Conservation Services.  “Although ERCA has planted hundreds of acres of tree, the impact is minimal using these grade differences.”  When initially measured in 1973, our region’s forest cover was less than 4%.  Current forest cover throughout our region is 5.7%.  A ‘C’ rating would require 15.1% forest cover.

“However, it is critically important to continue implementing tree planting, restoration and water quality improvement projects,” Money cautions. “While these grades do provide an indicator of how our watersheds are doing in relation to others across the province, there are a lot of other factors to consider to achieve a fulsome picture.”

Expounding on the theme of this year’s World Water Day, Money adds that in addition to helping improve the health of our watershed, nature-based solutions and green infrastructure have the potential to solve many of our water challenges. “We need to do so much more with ‘green’ infrastructure, particularly in the face of a changing climate. Planting new forests, creating new habitat and restoring wetlands will rebalance the water cycle and improve human health and the health of our watersheds.”

The 2012-2016 Watershed Report Card can be found here: