Canadian Heritage Rivers Designation a Catalyst for Water Quality Improvements

Canadian Heritage Rivers Designation a Catalyst for Water Quality Improvements

Designation and Water Quality

In the more than fifteen years since the Detroit River’s designation to the CHRS (2001), municipalities, community members and other partners along the river have undertaken more than 500 water quality improvement projects and the results have been dramatic.

As the Director General of the Essex Region Conservation Authority (ERCA), Richard Wyma, notes: “The designation of the river for its cultural heritage acted as a catalyst in stimulating many projects to enhance the river’s natural values.”

Big Projects With Incredible Results

The Detroit River suffered the effects of its industrial history and its location in a region with a population of  5 million people but municipalities along the river, ERCA and a host of other partners initiated water quality improvement projects that included:

  • The 2008 removal of 975 cubic metres of PCB-contaminated sediments from Turkey Creek.
  • The 2008 expansion of the Lou Romano Water Reclamation Plant, a project that added secondary treatment and roughly doubled the overall capacity of the largest and one of the last remaining primary wastewater treatment plants in the Great Lakes basin.
  • The 2011 construction of the Windsor Riverfront Retention Treatment Basin, which reduced the amount of untreated water from sewer overflows entering the river.

The battle for better water continued with other water quality improvement projects such as the creation of buffer strips and soil erosion control structures, septic system upgrades, well capping projects and wetland restoration initiatives in watersheds that drain into the Detroit River. ERCA’s ongoing monitoring of the river has shown that these projects have had a very positive impact on the water quality of the river.

Education and Community Stewardship Make An Impact

protecting_our_riverThese projects, combined with education initiatives and community stewardship events such as the Detroit River Canadian Cleanup Initiative have resulted in such remarkable improvements to the water quality that ERCA is considering submitting a request to add the river’s natural values to the designation. You can read more about this remarkable success story in the Detroit River Ten-Year CHRS Monitoring Report.

River Facts

The 51 km-long Detroit River lies in the heart of the Great Lakes Basin and serves as the international boundary between Canada and the United States. Designated to the CHRS in 2001, the Detroit River is the first to achieve international designation, with matching federal designation on the American side. The CHRS river manager is the Essex Region Conservation Authority.