Let's clean up Ottawa's rivers

Every time it rains, a cocktail of contaminants (including bacteria, chemicals, fuels and heavy metals) washes off our streets, through storm sewers and into our rivers and streams. Not only are the city’s beaches often closed to swimming, the wildlife that rely on our waterways are endangered and homes are flooded.

The City of Ottawa must follow-through on its commitment to develop a Water Environment Strategy that improves storm-water management and makes it safer to swim and fish in our rivers. Such a strategy should reduce the toxins going into our rivers, ensure clean drinking water, and protect communities and streams from flooding associated with severe weather.

In March 2014, City Council’s Environment Committee voted to develop a Water Environment Strategy, and the proposed timeline suggests it will be presented in early 2015. The responsibility to ensure adoption and implementation of a rigorous strategy will fall to the newly elected city council.

The Strategy should lay out a plan to reduce the amount of storm-water that ends up in our rivers, and to ensure the water that does is properly treated first. The city should invest in infrastructure that slows down and soaks up storm-water, such as parklands, wetlands, roadside trees, urban forests, natural channels, permeable surfaces, and green roofs. Such investments will reduce overall costs, protect ecosystems and reduce damage from extreme weather events.

Water conservation is an additional key element. Between 2004 and 2013, conservation reduced the amount of drinking water we use from over 125 mega-litres (125 billion litres) per year in 2006 to 100 mega-litres in 2013. The Water Environment Strategy should build on this success and seek to further reduce usage by 3 per cent per year.

Ask the Candidates The health of Ottawa’s rivers is a municipal issue. Ecology Ottawa would like all candidates to strongly support a Water Environment Strategy for the city. If elected, they will determine the funding and priority accorded to making our rivers healthy over the next four years. Ask your candidate about cleaning up our waterways.

As part of a general survey ahead of the October municipal elections, Ecology Ottawa asked all candidates for mayor and city council to answer three questions regarding their plans to clean up Ottawa’s waterways:

  1. The City of Ottawa is developing a Water Environment Strategy that will provide a framework for action to promote clean drinking water, reduce the toxins going into our rivers, and protect communities and streams from flooding associated with severe weather. If elected, will you support the development of a strong strategy and prioritize the investments necessary to realize the strategy’s goals?
  2. The April 2014 Ontario Provincial Policy Statement (PPS) instructs planning authorities to promote green infrastructure measures (such as parklands, storm-water systems, wetlands, street trees, urban forests, natural channels, permeable surfaces, and green roofs) in order to reduce costs, protect ecosystems and adapt to extreme weather events. If elected, will you prioritize green infrastructure in addressing the City of Ottawa’s water management needs?
  3. The production of clean water for public consumption has been falling over the past decade in Ottawa (i.e., we are using less water). Between 2004 and 2013, the amount of clean water produced and used inside Ottawa fell from over 125,000 million litres to about 100,000 million litres (not including private wells). If elected will you commit to continuing this trend by prioritizing water conservation measures that reduce usage by 3 percent per year?
Their responses will be posted on this website in October.

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