A watershed is an area of land where all of the water drains into the same body of water, such as a stream, creek, river or lake. It’s important to protect our watershed because the water that flows through it becomes the water that we depend on for drinking, farming, manufacturing and recreation as well as habitat for wildlife. Conservation authorities use “integrated watershed management” to protect the natural resources in our watershed and manage the human activities that could impact them. Integrated watershed management is so important to our work that we have used this approach to guide our priorities and frame our strategic plan.
Conservation Halton is responsible is for a watershed area of more than 1000 square kilometres, including about 900 square kilometres of land and 100 square kilometres of water-based area. The watershed is made up of about 18 smaller watershed areas, with one for each the creeks and streams that enter Lake Ontario, from Grindstone Creek in the west to Joshua’s Creek in the east. The watershed management efforts of Conservation Halton include each of these watersheds but most are focused within the three main watersheds (Grindstone Creek, Bronte Creek and Sixteen Mile Creek).
Grindstone Creek runs through the urban districts of Waterdown, Aldershot, and Bayview, as well as the rural area of west Halton. The watershed area that surrounds Grindstone Creek is about 100 kilometres of land, and it provides 14 percent of the water that flows into Hamilton Harbour. Also, part of the Grindstone Creek watershed is considered to be within the Carolinian forest, which is a unique ecosystem that supports incredible biodiversity, including species that can be found nowhere else in the world.
Bronte Creek watershed is about 300 square kilometres of mostly rural land that includes parts of Burlington, Oakville, Milton, Hamilton and Wellington County. The main branch of Bronte Creek is 48 kilometres long and there are 12 tributaries that feed into the creek. Many of the people who live and work in the Bronte Creek watershed are dependent on groundwater sources for drinking water and agricultural purposes.
Sixteen Mile Creek watershed is about 360 square kilometres of land that includes parts of Milton, Halton Hills, Oakville and Mississauga, and drains into Lake Ontario. There are three reservoirs used for flood management within the Sixteen Mile Creek watershed.
In addition to three main watersheds (Grindstone Creek, Bronte Creek and Sixteen Mile Creek), there are 18 smaller watersheds throughout Hamilton, Burlington, Oakville and parts of Mississauga. These watersheds tend to be long, narrow areas of land, more rural at the northern reaches, and more urban in the southern areas, where they drain into Lake Ontario. Despite the amount of development, these watersheds contain a number of unique natural features, such as the Niagara Escarpment, Carolinian forest and remnants of prairie and oak savannah.
Conservation Halton works in partnership with municipalities, other conservation authorities and the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources, Department of Fisheries and Oceans on the Lake Ontario Shoreline Management Program to help ensure that waterfront developments are undertaken in a safe, sustainable and responsible manner.
Conservation Halton is a member of the Hamilton Harbour Remedial Action Plan, which is working to address environmental damage and degradation, in order to remove the Hamilton Harbour as an “Area of Concern.” The Hamilton Harbour Remedial Action Plan brings federal, provincial and municipal levels of government together with conservation authorities, and community groups, and we are proud to be part of this collaboration.
- Safer, cleaner drinking water with reduced risk of source contamination.
- Provides reliable access to safe, clean water for growing and producing food.
- Supports healthier, more resilient soil for farmers and gardeners to grow food.
- Mitigates the impacts of climate change through capturing and storing carbon.
- Communities are more adaptable and resilient to the impacts of climate change.
- Prevents danger to people and damage to infrastructure from flooding and erosion.
- Reduces the expensive impacts of flooding, erosion and drought on our communities.
- Provides important habitat for native species of wildlife in the water and on the land.
- Spending time in nature supports the mental and physical health of our communities.
- Supports economic growth through tourism, fisheries, forestry, agriculture and mining.
Conservation Halton has been responsible for watershed resource management for more than 60 years. Currently, we use an approach called “integrated watershed management” to account for interconnected nature of ecology, economy and society within the watershed. As such, most Conservation Halton programs are intended to benefit watershed health in some way, but here are the key watershed programs:
- Review of municipal policies, plans and by-laws that impact the watershed
- Review of applications for subdivision development in the watershed
- Review of shoreline and waterfront plans, projects and policies in the watershed
- Development and management of geographic information system (GIS) mapping
- Operation and maintenance of four dams and three channels to prevent flooding
- Participation as a member of the Halton-Hamilton Source Protection Region
- Reduction of threats to drinking water sources through the Source Protection Plan
- Partnership with the Hamilton Harbour Remedial Action Plan restoration efforts
- Monitoring and reporting on environmental indicators of watershed health
- Landowner assistance programs to support stewardship on private properties
- Education to the community about the importance of our natural resources