RIDEAU LAKES, March 15, 2021 – Holmes and Watson would surely approve of the watershed’s latest investigative team: the Township of Rideau Lakes, Upper Rideau Lake Association (URLA) and the Rideau Valley Conservation Authority (RVCA).
This spring, staff and volunteers from all three organizations will embark on their second season of a unique collaboration to examine why water quality in Adrains Creek is consistently rated “poor” in RVCA reports – and whether the creek is contributing to the same poor rating in Upper Rideau Lake.
RVCA regularly monitors sites throughout Upper Rideau Lake and one site on Adrains Creek. The township contributed funding to support additional sampling last summer, and URLA supplied funding and two volunteers.
“This is a new type of project for us,” said RVCA’s surface water quality co-ordinator Sarah MacLeod-Neilson, who organized the program. “We’re excited for more collaborations like this. We want to work with our municipalities, lake associations and other local partners to identify and address specific problem areas.”
Adrains Creek was identified as having poor water quality in a 2014 subwatershed report because of high concentrations of nutrients, metals and bacterial counts, but it was unclear whether that was due to natural causes, a one-off event or upstream land uses.
Malcolm Norwood, then the township’s acting manager of development services, said this kind of investigation helps the municipality make better planning decisions.
“The more detailed information we can get, the easier it is to go to Council and say, ‘Here’s the problem and here are some policy options to rectify it,’” Norwood said. “Being able to partner with the RVCA and use their expertise helps us understand these acute problems to enact better policies.”
Dave Counter was one of two URLA volunteers who provided his time and a boat to get samples to the RVCA while working within strict public health measures last summer. The idea was that he and fellow volunteer Ena Shaw would sample the creek during big rain events, but the 2020 summer was so dry it almost never happened.
Instead, Counter and Shaw took standing water samples ever few weeks and sent MacLeod-Neilson photos of the creek’s general status.
Counter and Shaw also tested lake water in McNally’s Bay and at the mouth of the creek to determine if the creek’s water quality was impacting the lake. Results showed no evidence that it was, largely due to the lack of water flow in the system.
Despite last year’s efforts, no definitive cause for the creek’s poor quality was unearthed. With the mystery still to be solved, all parties have agreed that more monitoring is needed in 2021. Counter has already committed to continue sampling this spring and summer – hopefully with more rain events to get the flow data they need.
“I told the RVCA if they needed any help solving this mystery, we would provide it,” Counter said.
As for MacLeod-Neilson, she said she’s impressed with the dedication of RVCA’s volunteers and the interest from member municipalities to protect and improve water quality in the Rideau Valley.
“We’re truly grateful to all of our partners,” she said.
To learn more about RVCA water quality monitoring and for information about your subwatershed, visit watersheds.rvca.ca.