Health of Humber River Watershed shows little signs of improvement



    - TRCA and Humber Watershed Alliance release highly anticipated report
    card -

    TORONTO, Nov. 1 /CNW/ - A leading local environmental management
organization released today the long-awaited results of its 2007 report
titled, "Listen to Your River: A Report Card on the Health of the Humber River
Watershed." According to Toronto and Region Conservation (TRCA) and the Humber
Watershed Alliance, the health of the watershed faces serious challenges.
    Since the last report card seven years ago, the 26 variables studied to
gauge the health of the Humber River watershed suggests it to be in average
condition. Overall, the health of the Humber continues to come under
significant stress from new urban growth, increased population, additional
traffic, and greater demand on greenspace for a variety of uses.
    "By 2021, the watershed may be 45 per cent urbanized posing potential,
serious losses of environmental quality and biodiversity," said Gary Wilkins,
TRCA's Humber Watershed Specialist. "Today only 15 per cent of the urban area
has stormwater quantity controls. We need to be vigilant on this issue to
ensure best practices are used in future growth and older areas get
retrofitted for better water quality and quantity."
    The report card identified no improvements in bacteria levels. There were
900 oil spills and 750 chemical spills in a six-year period. Fish surveys
indicated 57 per cent of stations saw a decline in habitat quality.
Additionally, summer low flows in the main branch have gone down by 13 per
cent.
    The organizations feel there is not enough investment in environmental
protection and restoration, and public awareness is low when it comes to the
problems and what needs to be done by everyone to improve the situation. For
example, "Only 10 per cent of area residents have volunteered their time to a
cause aimed at improving the environment," said Wilkins. "The result of not
acting is closed beaches, increased costs for providing safe water supplies
and degraded environmental health of public spaces, among many other things."
    The situation is not, however, without hope. The report card acknowledges
significant protection of the upper reaches of the Humber as a result of new
strategic plans such as the Oak Ridges Moraine Conservation Plan, Greenbelt
Plan and Ontario Regulation 166/06. The watershed now has 32 per cent natural
cover, well on its way to the 39 per cent target prescribed by the Terrestrial
Natural Heritage Strategy. There were also no significant increases since 2000
in conventional pollutants such as suspended solids, phosphorous, nitrogen and
ammonia.
    Other positive factors include an additional 28 kilometres of trails that
have been built since 2000. Sixty one per cent of the watercourses have
streamside natural vegetation such as trees and meadows to protect water
quality and habitat for fish and other wildlife.
    "It is hard for most of us to realize that even one person can have a
positive impact on the environment," said Wilkins. "When we do something on
our own property like recycle, plant a shade-tree or reduce water and energy
consumption, we truly make a difference but all of us have to get involved.
Other options are to participate in a community initiative such as reforesting
public greenspace, litter clean-up or attending an environmental education
event. If all else fails due to a lack of time donate to an environmental
cause whether financially or with equipment, products or service."
    The Humber River watershed, the largest in TRCA's 2,500-square-kilometre
jurisdiction, has provided a home for human communities for more than
10 thousand years. More than 670,000 people live, travel to work, or pursue
recreational activities in the Humber River watershed. The area's population
is predicted to grow to more than one million people by 2021, making it
everyone's responsibility to help protect, restore and celebrate the Humber as
a Canadian Heritage River.
    For additional information or to view a copy of the complete report card,
please visit www.trca.on.ca.

    With more than 50 years of experience, Toronto and Region Conservation
(TRCA) is a science-based educational organization that helps people
understand, enjoy and look after the natural environment. By introducing
TRCA's vision of The Living City(R), GTA residents are now starting to benefit
from a cleaner, greener and healthier place to live, which will last for
generations. For more information, call 416-661-6600 or visit us at
www.trca.on.ca.





For further information:

For further information: For media information, contact: Brown & Cohen
Communications & Public Affairs Inc., (416) 484-1132; Rowena Calpito, ext. 4,
rowena@brown-cohen.com; or Wendy Kauffman, ext. 3, wendy@brown-cohen.com


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