Photo: Meredith Brown/Ottawa Riverkeeper
Experts from across Ontario and Québec gathered in Gatineau, Québec today to discuss ways to improve and preserve the quality of the Ottawa River watershed.
The first ever Ottawa River Summit began with a blessing by Peter Decontie, fire keeper of the Anishinabe Algonquin, and continued with a smudging ceremony and a song for the river.
He and other Aboriginal leaders talked about the cultural, spiritual and heritage value of the river.
Participants then heard from Ottawa Riverkeeper Executive Director, Meredith Brown, who outlined the many challenges facing the river.
The Ottawa River watershed is huge – 146,000 square kilometres and is home to more than 1.6 million people (living in 250 communities).
Ms. Brown talked about the many advantages of living within this watershed: it is a reliable source of drinking water (albeit after treatment), hydro-electric power generation, tourism and recreation and the jobs that are created as a result of all of those activities.
However, the river is under siege and Ms. Brown outlined many of the problems, including: point and non-point source pollution, agricultural run off, dams, altered shorelines, loss of wetlands and floodplains, low water levels, algal blooms, contaminated fish and inadequately treated sewage being dumped into the river.
Ms. Brown said there is a lack of baseline data about the Ottawa River and called for a more coordinated effort by all levels of government, non-governmental organizations, and aboriginal groups to work together to improve water quality.
Photo: While the Ottawa River Summit was going on, many were on the water enjoying it.