Surface Water Quality

Water Chemistry

Water Quality has a significant impact on the types of species that inhabit a watershed, and Otonabee Conservation monitors surface water throughout the watershed.   Since 1964, Otonabee Conservation has collected surface water samples as part of the Provincial Water Quality Monitoring Network (PWQMN).  The PWQMN is a partnership between the Ontario Ministry of Environment and Conservation Authorities and involves the collection of water samples for chemical analysis.  The samples are analyzed for a range of water quality indicators including:

  • temperature
  • pH, conductivity
  • turbidity
  • suspended solids
  • major ions
  • nutrients
  • metals
  • pesticides

The results provide valuable information about the state of our local water resources.  Currently, 16 sites across the Otonabee region watershed are sampled monthly as part of the PWQMN.  This data is available to the public, and is used as part of the Otonabee region watershed health monitoring program.  For more information, contact Otonabee Conservation or visit the Ontario Ministry of Environment. Otonabee Conservation also collects water samples from other sites in the watershed, as part of special projects, studies or programs.


Otonabee Conservation is a member of the Ontario Benthos Biomonitoring Network (OBBN).  The OBBN is a program of the Ontario Ministry of the Environment and involves the collection and analysis of benthic macroinvertebrates to assess long term surface water quality.  Benthic macroinvertebrates are the aquatic ‘bugs’ found in lakes, rivers, streams and wetlands.  These bottom dwelling insects are good indicators of water quality and aquatic ecosystem health for a number of reasons:

  • they generally have limited mobility that makes them vulnerable
    to changes in water quality and habitat disturbance;
  • they have short life cycles;
  • they are easily collected and identified;
  • and they exist in all aquatic habitats.

Different species of benthic macroinvertebrates have different levels of tolerance to pollution making them excellent water quality indicators. The presence (or absence) and abundance of certain benthos species can be related to the quality of the water.  Otonabee Conservation staff collect and identify these aquatic ‘bugs’ on an annual basis from wetlands, lakes, rivers and streams throughout the watershed. By examining changes in species present at a specific location (community structure), it is possible to assess changes in aquatic habitat conditions over time, and determine the relative dominance of certain classes of organisms which are linked to organism feeding strategies and pollution sensitivities.

Other Studies

In addition, Otonabee Conservation conducts surface water temperature studies throughout the watershed to identify various aquatic habitats and thermal classifications of watercourses or water bodies.  Surface water temperature is often indicative of the types of species likely to inhabit a given aquatic habitat.  For example, every fish species has a specific range of tolerance to water temperature, beyond which its health and survivability is threatened.  Otonabee Conservation staff also use the information gathered from these water temperature studies to monitor the potential impacts of development on aquatic ecosystems.