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Tay River Indicators - 1998 to 2003
Tay Watershed Hot Spots

    By Chris Stone

      Over the 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.

      In traveling 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 picture?

      The good 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 waterfront habitation.

      The town 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 charts?

      Earlier 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.

      Recent research 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.

      There is 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.

      The first 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.

      Although 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 2000

      What's next?

      Data for 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.

      Feedback please.

      Don't hesitate to let me know what you think and your own experience of the Tay water quality.

      Prepared by

      Christopher Stone, (as a private citizen), RR 7, Perth, K7H 3C9

      November 2004.

      With thanks to Diane Downey, Patrick Larsen and Lynn Preston of the RVCA.

      (Any errors are mine).

      Please click here to go to the 2004 update.



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