Reflecting on the Health of Canada’s Waters: Flow

At WWF-Canada, we have committed to understanding the health of our waters by Canada’s 150th birthday in 2017. That will be a big step toward helping us achieve our ultimate goal of having all waters in good condition by 2025.
It’s been a long road to get to where we are now –from developing a workable assessment that can be used across the country to measure the health of Canadian rivers, to launching our first scores on water health.  We’ve completed our assessment of one quarter of Canada’s watershed areas – here are some of the overall scores.
Today, I want to talk about the overall scores for one of the major metric of river health. It’s called environment flow and is a measure of how water flows (or doesn’t) through a system.  This is core to the health of the species we work so hard to protect.  We’ve spoken about it extensively here and even made a video!

So, what exactly do we know about the hydrology of our major river systems after assessing 25 per cent of Canada’s watershed area?  Unlike some of our other metrics, Canada has very good data across the country.  There is an extensive monitoring program with a robust framework.  The database that houses the monitoring results (HYDAT) is well done which is important because it’s the only source of this type of data!
Most river systems have scored either fair or poor under WWF-Canada’s assessment.  The poor scoring is generally a result of two things:  Through the 1960s to 1980s, Canada was intensively focused on building very large dams for hydroelectricity that greatly increased the degree of alteration of the river.  Secondly, impacts of climate change and melting permafrost in our northern rivers are increasing the amount of water in the river and the seasonal flow of this water.  These changes have an impact on the health of the river and of river species. That’s why WWF is working hard to document the state of water health in Canada – to help us understand what needs to be done to improve the future health of our waterways.
Celebrating Canada’s 147th birthday this year, we’re excited to be on this journey to understand and protect Canada’s true wealth – our freshwater.

Freshwater Health Assessments Water Flow Scores per Basin. © WWF-Canada
Freshwater Health Assessments Water Flow Scores per Basin. © WWF-Canada