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Toronto, June 17 (Canadian-Media): Urbanization, forestry, municipal and industrial pollution, fragmentation, pipeline incidents, oil and gas development as well as climate change had drastically disrupted Canada's watersheds adversely effecting health, economy and the wellbeing of wildlife, the first nationwide assessment of Canada’s freshwater report said.
Both health assessment, continued the report, which looked at river flow, water quality, fish and benthic invertebrates and threat assessment for examining stressorrs, including pollution, habitat loss, fragmentation, water use, invasive species, alteration to water flows and climate change were carried out and was found that lack of data deficiency at the national level.
This fact was of great concern, considering that Canada is home to 20 percent of the world's freshwater and is home to Canada’s large population, industry, agriculture and over 100 at-risk species.
"It's a very patchy system," he said. "For example, if the urban area of Calgary is measuring the health of the Bow River, but upstream is not being measured, you don't have a proper and full picture," David Miller, president of World Wildlife Fund-Canada, CBCNews reports said.
Canada's five major ocean watersheds: the Arctic, the Atlantic (including the Great Lakes and the St. Lawrence River), Hudson Bay, the Pacific and the Gulf of Mexico are are fed by smaller rivers called sub-watersheds, which drain their water into ocean. watersheds the report said.
Assessment of health and stress levels of each of 167 sub-watersheds, identified for testing, revealed climate change had impacted every water-shed, habitat loss was seen in more than half of these watersheds, due to climate change as well as construction of homes and buildings close to the water, and almost two thirds of the sub-watersheds were reported to be fair or poor in water quality.
"Like most Canadians, I have an image of our country as a haven of fresh water. When I started canoeing I could dip my cup in a lake in Algonquin Park and I could drink it without treating it and that's not true anymore," said Miller, CBCNews news reports said.
The report identified the North and South Saskatchewan watersheds, the Peace-Athabasca watershed and, the Great Lakes and the Ottawa River as main areas lacking detailed information about the water quality.
"I think that's a result that Canadians, when they learn it, will be deeply concerned about," said Miller in an interview with CBC News.
Data collected by WWF-Canada, over the past four years, by collaborating with community organizations, water agencies, First Nations, researchers, governments and industry, and discovered that about 60 percent had poor or fair water quality, one third watersheds’ flow was interrupted by dams, roads or railways and only 11 key health and threat indicators is being collected in only 14 of our 167 sub-watersheds, and 15 of 25 watersheds are data deficient at the watershed level.
"We have a pretty good handle on what the threats are and potential impacts of those threats, so not having the information to measure the actual health of a majority of watersheds is extremely concerning," said Miller, CBCNews reports said.
Marie-Pascale Des Rosiers, Press secretary to Min. Catherine McKenna, the Minister of Environment and Climate Change, said considering the fact that water is a shared responsibility, federal government was collaborating with provinces, territories and municipalities and aboriginal people to protect water.
"Our government has a comprehensive approach to help ensure clean, secure and sustainable water resources for present and future generations," Des Rosiers told CBCNews.
Government of Canada had invested millions of dollars, added Des Rosiers, in the last two budgets for protection of freshwater including $197.1 million in 2016 for promotion of research on ocean and freshwater, $3.1 million for improvement of shore and ecosystem health in the Great Lakes and had allocated $70.5 million in the 2017 budget to protect water in the Great Lakes and Lake Winnipeg basins.
The federal government had also introduced a 11-year plan to improve wastewater systems across the country.
But a national system, argued Miller from WWF-Canada, to properly track the health of fresh water and the impacts from human activity is the need of the hour.
(Reporting by Asha Bajaj)