years I have kayaked on the Tay and its lakes and streams, from its headwaters
around Mountain Grove through to the locks at Beveridges. The River in
front of my home downstream from Christie Lake provides a never- ending
variety of wildlife and changes as its tenacious current flows by; my
grandchildren swim in the river all summer.
downstream, the navigator can physically experience the decrease in water
quality; the River becomes murkier, browner and the clean river smell
is replaced by a less-than-clean odour.
Swimming the Tay near Christie Lake
So, what's the big
news is that the Tay and its lakes remain one of the healthiest waterways
in southern Ontario. The water flowing out of the lakes is generally in
good shape even though the lakes have the largest concentration of human
of Perth appears to be contributing to e-coli levels through its storm
sewers in the town and sewage lagoon downstream. Livestock access to the
waterways, particularly in the tributary creeks, have a serious impact
on water quality, with the highest reading for e-coli in the main Tay
watershed occurring on Grant's Creek and two sites along the Creek exceeding
all three water quality averages.
An old problem....
It seems to me that this situation is very fixable and from what
I know, there are many activities taking place that show most everyone
in the watershed is doing their bit. Every trip down the Tay shows some
improvements. Waterfront property owners are improving their shorelines
and septic systems. Farmers are fencing their livestock and leaving protective
vegetation strips along waterways. Townships are enforcing setbacks and
requiring septic inspections. And the many organizations with an interest
in the watershed, chief among them the RVCA are there to support anyone
who wants to help improve a good situation and make the Tay the cleanest
watershed in Ontario.
What's new about these
this year I set about to research the progression of the Tay in terms
of water quality indicators along the its length from Bobs Lake to
Port Elmsley. I wanted some perspective on the human impact along the
waterway so I researched the human population; the numbers in brackets
represent an approximation of the number of human habitations on or near
the waterfront for the various lakes and the main Tay. These inexact statistics
have come from lake associations, topographical maps and through observation.
done for the Fisheries and Oceans Canada Fish Habitat study (2003) identified
livestock access sites to the waterways - the red dots represent verified
sites of livestock access at that time.
much accumulated water quality data that can be overwhelming; the Rideau Valley Conservation Authority (RVCA)
has an excellent store of data and their new Watershed Information System
on the RVCA website provides a goldmine of data for anyone wanting to
learn more about the Rideau/Tay watershed. I wanted to use the data to
chart the changes in the Tay in the simplest and most understandable way;
the result is Tay River Indicators - 1998 to 2003.
chart (click here) displays results of water quality measurements taken
on the main Tay and three of its tributaries (Ruddsdale, Grant and Jebbs
Creeks) as they flow eastward; the second chart (click here) shows the separate water quality
indicators for each of the waterways.
there are many readings and indicators for water quality, I chose three
(e-coli (in red), Total Kjeldahl Nitrogen (in green) and Total phosphorous
(in orange) as these three are most consistently reported and are the
most indicative of human impact on the waterway and conversely, have the
most impact on human use of the waterway, be it for household water use
or recreational purposes. For a more detailed description of what these
indicators mean and their sources please refer to Existing Conditions
and Trends in the Tay River Watershed, pp. 45-65, RVCA June 2000http://www.rideauvalley.on.ca/programs/watershed_planning/tay/index.html.
2004 has just been made available. Although there are many variables (rainfall
or lack thereof) that can affect this information, I intend to plot subsequent
year data using this five years of data as a benchmark to monitor what
we all hope will be improvements in water quality throughout the watershed.
hesitate to let me know what you think and your own experience of the
Tay water quality.
Stone, (as a private citizen), RR 7, Perth, K7H 3C9
to Diane Downey, Patrick Larsen and Lynn Preston of the RVCA.
Please click here to go to the 2004 update.