Ground Water Canada

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Freshwater ecosystems data lacking at the national level, WWF-Canada says


June 22, 2016
By Ground Water Canada

Toronto – Essential information on the health of Canada’s 25 major freshwater ecosystems is lacking at the national level, and is either unavailable or inaccessible at the local level, a World Wildlife Fund-Canada said on the release of its new watershed research.

These latest reports put the assessment at the 75 per cent mark of Canada’s watersheds studied, the WWF-Canada said in a news release. For 62 per cent of those watersheds, too little information is available to determine water quality and overall health. Of the seven newest reports – Pacific Coastal, Okanagan-Similkameen, Columbia, Assiniboine-Red, Winnipeg, Northern Ontario and Keewatin-Southern Baffin Island – sufficient overall water health data were available in only two: Okanagan-Similkameen and Columbia watersheds.

The WWF-Canada identified five trends in freshwater resources in Canada:

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We don’t have enough data to assess the overall health of our fresh water supply

  • 78 sub-watersheds out of 125 assessed are data deficient for water quality, which means overall health can’t be determined.
  • Of all the indicators, data are particularly lacking for water quality and benthic invertebrates (bugs).

Water quality is deteriorating

  • While nine of the 19 watersheds already assessed score “fair” or lower, none of the watersheds have “good” water quality. The other 10 watersheds assessed to date are data deficient for water quality.
  • We’re seeing toxic algae blooms in our lakes and tainted aquifers in our communities.

Pollution is on the rise

  • Pollution is one of the most significant threats to Canada’s rivers, with most watersheds scoring as having “high” or “very high” levels of pollution.
  • The threat is highest in Okanagan-Similkameen,Columbia, Assiniboine-Red, North Saskatchewan, South Saskatchewan, Great Lakes, Ottawa, St. Lawrence, Maritime Coastal and Saint John-St. Croix.

Our water wealth is starting to dry up

  • In many parts of the country, rivers are running lower; in Alberta, river volume has been reduced by more than half.
  • Glaciers, our great Canadian freshwater storehouses, are receding at an unprecedented rate.

Unpredictability is the new normal

  • Extreme water events such as floods in Toronto and Calgary, and droughts in B.C., are becoming more common.
  • The normal water cycles that people count on are becoming disrupted.
  • This unpredictability threatens food production, jeopardizes communities and costs us millions of dollars.

“Canada’s commitment to freshwater stewardship, conservation and science-based decision-making is now a national priority,” said WWF-Canada vice-president Elizabeth Hendriks in a statement. “But we can’t act unless we first know what the problems are, and how they’re being made worse. Where it is unavailable, monitoring needs to occur. Where information is being collected at the local level, by industry and local organizations, it should be shared with governments and local organizations as accessibility and transparency are key for understanding the health of freshwater at the local and national level.”

The watershed reports were funded by HSBC Bank Canada as part of its global 150th anniversary community fund. For details on health and threat scores for each watershed, visit www.watershedreports.wwf.ca