THE BLOG

Canadians Need to Become True Freshwater Stewards

07/07/2015 12:19 EDT | Updated 07/07/2016 05:59 EDT
watershed

Written by James Snider, Acting Vice President, Freshwater

Canadians are natural water stewards. As keepers of one fifth of the world's freshwater, we have a responsibility to protect it, but where to begin? We at WWF decided to start by filling a major knowledge gap: Canada currently does not have a complete picture of the state of its watersheds.

The result is watershedreports.wwf.ca. Today, WWF launched this new user-friendly website that we hope will become a core resource to help guide watershed management, inform the development of new policies and programs, and help Canadians get to know -- and care about -- the watershed they live in.

We're halfway there. To date, 12 of Canada's 25 major watersheds have been assessed based on four indicators of water health (water flow, water quality, fish and benthic invertebrates, or bugs) and seven indicators of threats to aquatic ecosystems (pollution, climate change, habitat loss and fragmentation, overuse of water, alteration of water flows and invasive species).

As mid-term reports go, there is cause for concern. Our assessments to date have revealed significant threats to many of our watersheds, including in some of our most populated areas. In terms of health, the majority of our watersheds fall below the threshold of good condition. To date, only two assessed watersheds have met the criteria of good health (the St. Lawrence and Saint John-St. Croix watersheds).

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James fishing for bass on Wolf Lake in Ontario's Kawartha Highlands Provincial Park. © Lindsay Hawes

Perhaps the most troubling finding, however, is the pronounced lack of available and accessible data on the health of the watersheds that we have assessed. Even in some of Canada's most densely populated and highly developed watersheds, such as the Great Lakes watershed, we don't know the health of the rivers that underpin our well-being and our economies.

As Canadians, we can do better. The information available at watershedreports.wwf.ca is relevant to everyone, from municipal water quality specialists and government engineers, to kayakers, canoeists, cottagers and homeowners. We hope this information will provide huge value for our collective, nationwide stewardship of freshwater in Canada.

WWF's freshwater team pledges to keep doing our part. By 2017, we will have assessed all 25 of Canada's major watersheds. These assessments will provide the basis against which we can measure our progress to our shared vision of all Canadian waters in good condition by 2025. The assessments of the Skeena, St. John and St. Lawrence watersheds are already guiding our activities in those areas.

Want to learn more about the health and threats to your watershed? Visit watershedreports.wwf.ca, and check out our Watersheds 101 infographic for more information on how WWF is assessing the state of Canada's freshwater.

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