What is Watershed Monitoring?
The Watershed Monitoring Program includes a number of activities related to the collection, storage, analysis, and reporting of data related to watershed health and is directly related to the four objectives of the Authority. It classifies watershed health and supports other programs by providing two essential information components: surveillance data and program performance data.
Surveillance data is environmental monitoring data that is used to rate the general health of the watershed rivers and streams on a reach or tributary basis. Collected "surveillance" information answers questions such as: "Which streams are healthy? Which are unhealthy? How is their health changing from stream reach to stream reach and from year to year?" This type of information is vital to the Authority - it identifies watershed health issues and helps to identify stresses that are impacting the aquatic environment. This information can then be used to shape our other programs. An excellent example of how this process works is the Healthy Waters program which protects healthy streams and improves impaired streams, partially based on the results of our monitoring program.
Program performance data is environmental monitoring data that is collected to help measure the success of specific projects or the impacts of new development such as a livestock fencing project or the impacts of a waste water treatment plant. The "performance" information we collect answers questions like: "Are our programs resulting in stream health improvements? Do biological communities actually respond favourably to livestock fencing and dam decommissioning projects? Do our development and planning policies protect streams?"
The Watershed Monitoring Program has been assessing stream health since 1996. We use a multidisciplinary approach to stream classification. Our best professional judgment of stream health is made based on a synthesis of all information we have available for a site.
Since 1999, we have amassed a significant database on biological communities (using biomonitoring), water chemistry (through both our own programs and the Provincial Water Quality Management Network), stream temperature and stream flow.
The Provincial Groundwater Monitoring Network is a partnership with the Ministry of the Environment (2002) that will allow us to monitor groundwater levels and groundwater quality in key aquifers throughout the watershed.
Our Natural Heritage Strategy projects will assist municipalities in protecting the natural heritage systems which ultimately support our significant terrestrial and aquatic resources.
Special projects such as subwatershed plans and new initiatives such as source protection planning will be undertaken as NVCA priorities emerge over time.