Water is the key to all life. Without it, nothing lives, nothing grows. We all use water for personal, recreational, and work related purposes, and ensuring our precious water resources are protected is the key to watershed health. Protecting our water means preserving natural watercourses in the region and monitoring their water quality in order to identify problems and implement corrective actions. The Essex Region is surrounded by Lake Erie, the Detroit River and Lake St. Clair. ERCA’s water quality program includes monitoring a variety of surface water and groundwater sites and interpreting the data collected, in order to determine the health of the watershed. The ERCA water quality program strives to:
- Provide a greater understanding of potential impact associated with land uses on our natural watercourses.
- Help prioritize problem areas within watersheds for restoration improvements.
- Track the success of habitat enhancement and clean-up projects in and along watercourses.
- Assess the effectiveness of best management practices for water quality improvements.
- Inform the community on the state of watercourse health in the Essex Region.
In each watershed, water quality monitoring occurs at key sites near the shores of our lakes and wetlands as well as at inland rivers and streams. All sites are selected based on criteria such as location within the watershed, adjacent land use and ease of access. Key land use areas are sampled for potential non-point source (e.g. lawn runoff and agricultural runoff) and point source (e.g. faulty septic tank discharge and sewage bypass) impacts. There are over 19 index sites throughout the Essex Region which are sampled eight times a year, with a few sites sampled more frequently after high rainfall events. Supplementary sampling takes place based on requirements for further monitoring of highly impacted areas to determine sources and causes of pollution. Various sites are sampled in partnership with the Ministry of the Environment as part of the Provincial Water Quality Monitoring Network (PWQMN).
Approximately every five years, ERCA produces a Water Quality Report Card in order to share the results of our data collection with the community. ERCA also produces factsheets that serve as quick references to the community of current water quality issues, why they occur, and how we can be part of the solution. ERCA participates in collaborative projects such as the review of agricultural best management practices to reduce nutrient loading and a video on blue green algae. Through funding from Environment Canada, ERCA monitors nutrients that contribute to water quality issues, and determines the amounts entering Lake Erie.