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Water Quality

Over the years, Ausable Bayfield Conservation has implemented a number of water quality initiatives to help fulfill the community's mission and vision to create healthy watersheds.

Research and Data Gathering

The Board of Directors of Ausable Bayfield Conservation Authority (ABCA), in 1982, initiated Ausable Bayfield Conservation's first water quality study that assessed potential water quality problems from manure handling and storage systems. This was a first step in developing a method for identifying livestock operations with a potential to degrade water quality.

During the 1980s and 90s other research included manure and nutrient management storage and handling practices, Escherichia coli (E. coli) survival in the streams and sediment, the connection between liquid manure application practices and tile drains, rapid E. coli detection in recreational waters, and pollution source identification using antibiotic resistance.

We are entering a fourth decade of conducting research, collecting data and participating in programs that will lead to monitoring, maintaining and improving water quality. Contact us for a list of the various Ausable Bayfield Conservation reports and studies available for viewing in our library or to purchase a copy.

Provincial Surface Water Quality Monitoring Network

The Ausable Bayfield Conservation Authority participates in the Provincial Surface Water Quality Monitoring Network by taking water samples at designated locations on a monthly basis. Surface water chemistry is monitored at eight (8) sites which were part of the original surface water quality monitoring program initiated in the 1960s by the Ontario Ministry of the Environment (MOE), now Ontario Ministry of the Environment, Conservation and Parks (MECP). Up until 1996, the MOE provided funding to ABCA to collect the samples but in 1996, this funding was cancelled and the program was discontinued. In 2000, ABCA and MOE staff agreed to the present sampling locations and the program was restarted. ABCA pays for the costs associated with sampling and Ontario's environment ministry pays for shipping and laboratory costs.

Provincial Groundwater Monitoring Network

The Ontario Ministry of the Environment, Conservation and Parks (MECP) has been partnering with conservation authorities and their member municipalities on a provincial groundwater monitoring network (PGMN) since 2000.  

The PGMN has been established to collect and maintain ambient (baseline) groundwater level and quality information from more than 450 wells, representing major aquifers across the province. Data from the monitoring network provides an early indicator for potential emerging issues such as climate change, water usage demand changes, and changes to water quality from both human-made and natural causes.

Ausable Bayfield Conservation Authority currently monitors water levels and quality at 16 locations across the ABCA watersheds.

Benthic Monitoring

Ausable Bayfield Conservation Authority began a Benthic Monitoring Program in 2000. Benthic macroinvertebrates are living organisms that inhabit the bottom substrates of watercourses. These insects are good indicators of aquatic ecosystem health since they incorporate the effects of their chemical and physical environment.

Drain Classification Authorization Process

Ausable Bayfield Conservation Authority has been collecting data for the Southwestern Ontario Municipal Drain Classification Project. This information will lead to self-regulation for municipal drainage superintendents under the Class Authorization Process' for maintenance procedures on municipal drains.

The data collected by ABCA will determine the type of aquatic ecosystem present in a particular drain. Water temperatures and habitat assessments are conducted which will identify the few cold water fisheries located in the ABCA watersheds. Proper drain classifications will guide future maintenance activities and provide protection for valuable fish habitat.

Fish Habitat Management Plan

In April 2001, the Ausable Bayfield Conservation Authority completed a Fish Habitat Management Plan for the watersheds of Ausable, Bayfield, Parkhill and Gullies leading into Lake Huron. The current status of fish habitat and possible management strategies to improve aquatic resources were reviewed for 14 sub-basins within the ABCA watershed area. The 14 sub-basins were further prioritized for protection, maintenance and improvement based on current habitat potential, current land use stress, sensitivity of the resource, and fishing level.

Bayfield Beach Stormwater Monitoring Report 

The Bayfield Main Beach has been a recipient of the internationally-recognized Blue Flag program designation, which among other things, identifies beaches that meet strict criteria for water quality. In order to help maintain this certification and support water quality initiatives in the area, the Bluewater Beach Committee was formed.  This partnership involves the Pioneer Park Association, Municipality of Bluewater, Huron County Health Unit, and Ausable Bayfield Conservation Authority (ABCA).

As the village of Bayfield has stormwater outlets along the beach, a stormwater monitoring program was initiated in the summer of 2014. The goal of this program was to gather some initial water quality data from the stormwater outfalls along the beach at the village of Bayfield. This information will help in determining whether the stormwater from the village of Bayfield might be impacting the beach and nearshore water quality. 

Rural Stormwater Management Model Project

The Ausable Bayfield Conservation Authority entered a partnership with the Healthy Lake Huron (HLH) - Clean Water, Clean Beaches Partnership - with departments and ministries; public health; local government; and local conservation agencies; to develop a Rural Stormwater Management Model (RSWMM), which was developed between 2012 and 2014. 

The model project was completed and the implementation phase has begun using the features of this computer modelling software.

For more information visit Healthy Lake Huron's Rural Stormwater Management Model Project web page and

Stormwater Management Policies and Technical Guidelines