Monitoring and restoring Canada’s freshwater systems: meet this year’s grant recipients

Water-conservation groups across the country are improving Canada’s freshwater future with support from the Loblaw Water Fund.

This summer, a group in Saskatchewan will be restoring two miles of degraded river shoreline habitat. By working with ranchers to keep their cattle away from the water’s edge and planting trees and shrubs, they will stabilize the soil and help to prevent excess nutrients from contaminating the waterway. The new plants will also provide habitat for migratory birds.

Meanwhile, in Quebec, youth from the Cree Nation of Wemindji are planning to complement their cultural knowledge of important water bodies with scientific water quality data in order to fill in data gaps for significant waterways in their community.

In fact, throughout Canada, citizens will be doing their part to contribute water quality for data-deficient watersheds by using portable water-testing kits from Water Rangers in their favourite water bodies. They’ll build field skills normally reserved for scientists by testing parameters like pH, dissolved oxygen and conductivity. (Yes, they’ll be measuring whether water can conduct electricity—it’s much easier than it sounds!)

These initiatives are just three of the 12 projects funded by the 2019 Loblaw Water Fund, which is managed by WWF-Canada. The fund has awarded just over $260,000 to 12 projects that improve freshwater health in Canada’s ecosystems. During the last five years, Loblaw Water Fund projects have engaged more than 16,000 volunteers and 73 organizations to restore more than 3,340 hectares of habitat for freshwater species, plant more than 82,000 trees and wetland plants and collect almost 15,000 water, fish and benthic macroinvertebrate samples.
The projects selected by WWF-Canada will help to address some of the main threats to freshwater systems identified in WWF’s Watershed Reports and ensure healthy waters across Canada. Read more about all 12 projects below:

Juvenile northern pike. © River Institute / Kate Schwartz

The 2019 Loblaw Water Fund grant recipient projects are:

  • Canada-Wide: Water Rangers (Multiple watersheds): Water Rangers will equip communities with citizen science test kits, provide them with online training and connect them to a growing network of communities participating in monitoring. Using equipment that allows testers to understand basic water health parameters such as temperature, clarity, pH, hardness, alkalinity, dissolved oxygen and conductivity, they’ll collect baseline data and educate their communities on the value of long-term monitoring.
  • Duncan, B.C. (Pacific Coastal watershed): The Somenos Marsh Wildlife Society and the Cowichan Land Trust are teaming up to work with waterfront property owners, First Nations groups and community volunteers to restore riparian buffer areas in key locations around their lakes to address threats from pollution and climate change. (Project name: Somenos and Quamichan Lakes Clean Water Action Project)
  • Victoria, B.C. (Pacific Coastal watershed): The World Fisheries Trust  will evaluate and rehabilitate freshwater habitats and water flows that are necessary for improved cutthroat trout populations in the Colquitz River and Craigflower and Hospital Creeks in Victoria, which are impacted by pollution, flow regulation and development. (Project name: Coastal Cutthroat Urban Trout Revival)
  • Yorkson, Saskatchewan (Assiniboine-Red watershed):  The Assiniboine Watershed Stewardship Associationhas identified aquatic ecosystems that are at high risk of degradation from agriculture and livestock operations, which allow contaminants and excess nutrients to enter the waterways. The AWSA aims to improve the aquatic and riparian health at two locations in the watershed by providing an incentive for ranchers to block direct access of their cattle to creeks, streams and rivers. (Project name: Restoring Riparian Habitat in the Assiniboine River Watershed)
  • Exeter, Ontario (Great Lakes watershed): The Ausable Bayfield Conservation Foundation will restore wetlands to improve freshwater mussel and turtle habitats in the Ausable River through initiatives including wetlands, water retention ponds, vegetation filter strips and tree plantings. (Project name: Restoring Wetlands to Improve Water Quality for Freshwater Mussels and Turtles in the Ausable River)
  • Sudbury, Ontario (Great Lakes watershed): The Junction Creek Stewardship Committee will collaborate with community partners to fulfill long-term monitoring initiatives of Junction Creek as it recovers from the degradation caused by urban pressures and historical mining and logging practices. The project will also study fish communities and undertake riparian habitat restoration. (Project name: Monitoring and Promoting Urban Stream Health)
  • Utopia, Ontario (Great Lakes watershed): The Nottawasaga Valley Conservation Authoritywill address the complex issues facing streams, riparian habitats and wetlands. This three-year project, which started in 2017 and ends in 2020, will help with watershed restoration targets such as stream connectivity, biodiversity, reducing thermal impacts exacerbated by climate change, meeting Provincial Water Quality Objectives and enhancing habitat for species.
  • Trois-Rivières, Quebec (Saint-Lawrence watershed): Over the past five years, the Comité ZIP Les Deux Rives has collaborated with agricultural producers in the Lac-Saint-Paul watershed to plant 25 km of riparian vegetation. In the third phase of this project (2019-2020), they will work with 16 agricultural producers to plant an additional 20 km of vegetation, which helps prevent sediment and excess nutrients from entering the lake, and creates corridors for animals, while increasing vegetation that attracts pollinators and helps with erosion reduction and temperature regulation. Water quality will also be assessed for the tributaries of Lac-Saint-Paul.  (Project name: Planting 20km of riparian bands in agricultural settings for the restoration of Lac-Saint-Paul)
  • Cree Nation of Wemindji, Quebec (Northern Quebec watershed): Youth in the Cree Nation of Wemindji have been learning cultural teachings about water, and now wish to complement these stories with scientific water quality data. This project is a baseline study of ten culturally important freshwater sites. Once baseline data are established, and Cree youth leadership is developed, the monitoring will likely become an annual activity, so the area will no longer be data-deficient.
  • Lunenburg, Nova Scotia (Maritime Coastal watershed): The Bluenose Coastal Action Foundation will allow the continuation of long-term water quality monitoring for the LaHave River, and it will collaborate with the Clean Annapolis River Project (CARP) to monitor water quality in the Nictaux River Watershed. The project can help alleviate declines in biodiversity due to human impacts and highlight areas that will require attention in the future. (Project name: Doubling Down in Nova Scotia: Monitoring and Restoration within the LaHave and Nictaux River Watersheds)
  • Miramichi, New Brunswick (Miramichi River watershed): The Miramichi River Environmental Assessment Committee (MREAC), in partnership with the Esgenoôpetitj Watershed Association and Environment and Climate Change Canada (ECCC) will implement the Canadian Aquatic Biomonitoring Network (CABIN) protocol on four never-before sampled river systems within the Miramichi watershed. An eDNA sample will also be collected at each of the sites and feed into the broader DNA-based Reference Condition Approach (RCA) for Atlantic Canada. 
  • Souris, PEI (Maritime Coastal watershed): The Souris and Area Branch of the PEI Wildlife Federation will maintain and improve fish populations by completing fish surveys and habitat restoration in northeastern PEI. The monitoring will provide baseline data for fish numbers and the stream restoration activities will improve aquatic habitat which is critical for the preservation of Atlantic salmon and Brook trout populations. (Project name: Restoration and monitoring in northeastern PEI)