Monthly Archives: January 2018

Federal Government Seeks Input on Ottawa River Watershed

The Federal Ministry of Environment and Climate Change Canada has begun a study on the Ottawa river watershed, and wants input from Canadians on the initiative.

MP David McGuinty says that the Ottawa River is the jewel in the crown of the Capitol Region. Our history is built around it, for economic, ecological, and cultural well-being. So it is important how we manage the watershed as best we can.

A healthy watershed is important to the economic, ecological, and cultural well-being to the people who live around it. The input from Indigenous peoples, local citizens, and organizations is important as it will feed the study with the information about the Ottawa River watershed, and how best to protect, manage, and conserve it.

If you want to join in the conversation on the Ottawa River Watershed Study visit the website PlaceSpeak. Information and questions will be updated as the study progresses or by attending the public meetings to be held in the National Capitol Region.

Thursday, Feb. 8, 2018, at 90 Elgin Street, in Ottawa. 4:30-8:30 pm.

Thursday, March 1st, 2018, at 25 Laurier Street, Gatineau. 4:30-8:30pm

The Minister of Environment and climate Change, Catherine McKenna, says she is committed to protecting Canada’s freshwater resources. she encourages everyone to participate in the Ottawa River Watershed Study.

The Ottawa River Watershed is on of Canada’s largest watersheds, covering more than 140,000 sq. kilometres  containing more than 200 municipalities, holding more than 2 million peoples.

Cape Town To Run Out Of Water Within Weeks

One of the world’s most popular tourist destinations, Cape Town, is facing a situation where residents could be forced to line up for water by April as the city fights the worst drought seen in 100 yrs.

Within months South Africa’s oldest city may become the world’s largest city to run out of water. tight water restrictions are presently in force with a restriction of 50 liters a day per person. The water restrictions have been  brought in to delay what has become known as Day Zero..April 12. This is the day the taps will run dry.

With usable water levels in the dams at 17.2 % at present, when the levels drop to 13.5% the city of 4 million  will be forced to line up daily for a ration of 25 liters from 200 collection points.

The police and army are on standby, prepping for the unrest that will surely come. The city’s mayor, Patricia de Lille, said warnings to use water sparingly have fallen on deaf ears. Despite the cities best efforts 60% of Capetonians are callously using more than 87 litres per day….as Day Zero looms. An extra tax for abusing the water is to be voted on.

Nobody knows what to expect when the water runs out.

Drones , Costa Rica, and Sea Turtles

One of the world’s most important nesting beaches is in the Ostional National Wildlife Refuge on Costa Rica’s Pacific coast. Here hundreds of thousands of sea turtles clamber ashore to lay their eggs.

Now drones are giving scientists deeper insights into just how important this area is. using fixed wing drones to conduct aerial surveys of olive ridley sea turtles in the nearby waters during 4 days in August 2015 scientists were able to determine turtles numbers to be as high as 2,086 turtles per square kilometer during peak nesting season. These numbers are much higher than previously thought.

The drones have proven to be a new and effective tool, providing valuable insights for future conservation and research. The drones were given high resolution digital cameras with near infra red vision. Flying just 90 metres above the ocean allowed researchers to view many turtle’s swimming just below the surface. Viewed from a boat observers could easily miss many of the turtles due to the angle of view and water clarity. This was the first study to use drones to estimate the abundance of sea turtles.

Usually scientists have collected abundance data using mark and recapture studies, in water surveys, and census of the number of turtles nesting on the beaches. These methods can be costly , time-consuming, a bit risky, and increase the chances of animals being missed or double counted.

This pilot study shows a new safe, cost-effective, and scientifically robust alternative to the older techniques. This approach gives us a better understanding of the population status and trends. Management and conservation measures can be tailored to individual populations, locations, and time frames.

The Olive Ridley’s are classified as “vulnerable”. Their chief threats are accidentally being caught and killed by hooks and other fishing gear used by fishing fleets.

Weather Change, Water Crisis, Civil Unrest…Iran fits a pattern

Nigeria, Syria, Somalia, and now Iran. In different ways in each of these 4 countries a water crisis has contributed to civil unrest, migration, insurgency, and even war. As we see the effects of climate change there are lessons here for a great many more countries to learn. Consider the World Resources Institute has let it be known that the rise of water stress on a global scale means that by 2040 33 countries will be facing bleak situations.

Water shortages can spark street protests. Access to water has been a common source of unrest in India. This situation can be used by terrorist groups, as Al Shabab in Somalia has sought to do in vulnerable drought stricken areas. Water shortages can help spur movement from the country side to cities. Young men unable to live off the land, go on the move, and become targets for recruiters of groups like Boka Haram in Nigeria, Chad, and Niger.

Iran is the latest country where a water crisis has fed popular discontent. In what is already on of the most parched areas of the world, farms have turned barren and lakes have become dust bowls. Millions of people hit the road to towns and cities, joblessness has led to mounting discontent among the young. Then came a crippling drought lasting some 14 yrs.

In short a water crisis can be an early warning of trouble ahead, whether this situation is from natural or man-made causes. A panel of retired military officials in the US recently warned that water stress or a shortage of fresh water would emerge as a growing factor in the world’s hot spots. With a growing world population and the impact of climate change the challenges will mount.

Iran is projected to get hotter and drier. A former Iranian agriculture minister, Issa Kalantari, once said the water scarcity, if left unchecked would lead to 50 million Iranians leaving the country.

Water is surely not the reason for the recent civil unrest in Iran…at least not entirely. But the lack of water in the lakes, wells, or taps is a common and visible marker of the Iranian governments failure to deliver a basic human need. Managing water is a most important policy challenge.

Andy the Traveling Tiger Shark

For over a decade researchers have been tagging and tracking sharks in order to study their migratory patterns and more. One shark in particular, Andy, is now the longest ever tracked tiger shark, providing years worth of data for researchers.

Andy was tagged in Bermuda by scientists from Nova Southeastern University’s Guy Harvey Research Institute in 2014. Since then Andy has traveled some 37,565 miles off the  eastern coast of North America, around Bermuda, the Bahamas, and the Turks and Caicos. He is now the longest tracked tiger shark on record..and just keeps on going. 1,240 days and counting.

The benefit to us is that by having Andy tracked over several seasons we get to see a track revealing repeated patterns in the shark’s migration between summer and winter. More than 150 sharks of various types have been or are being tracked, with the data collected being used to study the migration patterns of these incredible  creatures. These tagged sharks can be followed online at

By getting to know the movement patterns of the sharks we can better understand their behavior  and habit utilization, giving us better knowledge on managing these apex predators.

What we have found out is that tiger sharks migrations are influenced by a shark’s physical characteristics..size , age..and environmental variations..water temperatures and prey availability. It is revealed that environmental factors drive large migrations of tiger sharks and it is also highlighted that different age groups behave differently. With this information fisheries managers could reevaluate how best to protect this near threatened species.

Road Salt


Winter is here and in Ottawa we love our road salt.. so are deicers safe for the environment and drinking water?

To begin with salt was first used in the USA in New Hampshire in 1938 as an experiment. By the winter of 1941-1942, a total of 5,000 tons of salt was spread on American highways. Between 10-20 million tons are used today. This huge increase in the use of road salt has caused an alarming increase in the salinity of the water. The negative impact on the environment is of concern, as well as the impact on our drinking water.

Road salt or rock salt is sodium chloride. Table salt is exactly the same chemical. The US EPA has set limits for allowable levels of chloride in water, but not sodium. In high amounts both sodium and chloride are harmful to aquatic organisms. Sodium is a primary concern for humans, as it can be harmful to people with high blood pressure.

We do need salt in our diets . Most of us get between 4,000-6,000 mg per day, most of which comes from food. A person on a sodium reduced diet are limited to 1,000-3,000 mg per day. A person drinking 2 liters of water per day should get 100 mg of sodium in his water per day. However , in a water well study 347 mg of sodium was found in a liter of water. This is significant if you are on a sodium reduced diet.

A couple of things to consider are that higher concentrations of sodium and chloride are often found in pockets  of ground water. Secondly, there is a legacy effect of salt in the environment, which means that concentrations in surface and groundwater will increase, perhaps for decades…even if we stop using salt today. So , the average concentration of 48 mg/l we see today could be much higher in the future.

Road salt can also damage metal and concrete, contaminate drinking water, damage road side vegetation, and accumulates in streams lakes , and rivers harming aquatic plants and animals. Trends show that even in our rural areas road salt in increasing in our waterways , and can take decades to wash out of a water shed , increases in concentrations of salt may be seen even after it’s use has stopped.

Safe roads are always important, so what are alternative deicers. Currently , there is no perfect alternative to road salt, but research is ongoing.

Water Canada’s Top Stories of 2017

While we celebrated Canada 150, 2017 was a year of political tension and turmoil when it comes to water. Events occurred that has caused some uncertainty from natural disasters to disruptive technologies , and new world order. 

Positive infrastructure investments got underway across the country and a new Canada Infrastructure Bank hints at greater investments in the future. Quebec and Ontario made good progress in terms of wetland preservation, the Mackenzie River management took steps forward, and national flood plain mapping developed.

Unfortunately not all was good…Trump , NAFTA, and cuts to the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative have not been positives.

Uncertainty is still prevalent in First Nations, Inuit, and Metis communities. Water advisories were lifted in some areas , but added in other areas. Relations with indigenous leaders are being reset as the Ministry of indigenous and Northern Affairs passed over its water responsibilities to the newly created Ministry of Indigenous Services.

@017 was also big with talk of blockchain, artificial intelligence, and the Internet of Things, that promises to make operators and city officials all-knowing in their optimization and asset management.

Federal and provincial governments provided stimulus for homegrown innovation. In the future we will continue to be an innovative nation pushing to be a world leader.

The Caribbean is stressed out.

Forty percent of the world’s 7.6 billion people live in coastal areas. A team including Smithsonian marine biologists just released 25 years of data about the health of Caribbean coasts. The study provides new insights into the influence of both local and global stressors in the basin, and some hope that the observed changes can be reversed by local environmental management.

The longest and largest program to monitor the health of the coastal ecosystems shows that water quality has decreased at 43% of the monitoring stations. Interestingly  increased water temperatures expected in the case of global warming was not detected across the sites.


Changes in local conditions are seen…like visibility, which is noted in declining water quality and increased presence of people. Significant increase in water temps was not seen, but satellites only measure the surface temps. Underwater temps are much more variable.

More than 25 yrs ago researchers at Institutions across the Caribbean began to set up monitoring stations to gather environmental data on mangroves, sea grass beds, and coral reefs at coastal sites. They began to take weekly measurements of water temperatures, salinity, and visibility at sites that would avoid interference from human activity.  29 sites were involved in Barbados, Belize, Bermuda, Colombia, Costa Rico, Florida, Jamaica, Mexico , Panama, Puerto Rico, and Venezuela. The gathered information was gathered into a single data set.


Despite attempts to locate monitoring stations in out-of-the-way places, stations are picking up signs of human influence across the Caribbean basin.

One positive note is that people are capable of dealing with local changes by regulating pollution and run off. If the people of the Caribbean nations act quickly we can see the reversal of some of these changes.