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Subwatershed studies

Subwatershed studies

In Section 2.4.3 of its Official Plan, the City has committed to preparing watershed and subwatershed plans to provide environmental direction to land use decisions. A watershed, also known as a catchment or basin, is the land drained by a river and its tributaries. It is separated from adjacent watersheds by a land ridge or divide. A subwatershed is usually a smaller area of land draining to a single tributary of a larger river.

Watershed and subwatershed planning starts with a scientific study of the area’s soils, geology, surface and ground water, plants and wildlife. It also looks at how the land is used for housing, agriculture, recreation and other purposes. The study then undertakes an integrated assessment of the existing condition and health of the natural resources within the watershed. This assessment identifies sensitive natural features such as woodlands, wetlands and watercourses, sources of environmental stress, and opportunities to enhance the environment. It sets goals that address these issues and recommends actions for landowners, the City, the Conservation Authority, and other interested groups to help achieve these goals. Typical recommendations include setbacks from water bodies, stormwater management requirements, protection of significant natural features and habitat linkages, and opportunities to rehabilitate degraded areas or otherwise enhance the environment.

In some cases, the need for more detailed studies such as environmental management plans or environmental impact statements is identified for specific areas or sites of future development. Watershed and subwatershed plans attempt to balance environmental protection, conservation and restoration with development and land-use practices to ensure the long-term health of the watershed. They are as important in the urban area as they are in the rural area. The success of the plan depends on the support of many stakeholder agencies, landowners, the City, and the general public.

The City and the local Conservation Authority work together to prepare watershed and subwatershed plans, with the Conservation Authority typically taking the lead for watershed studies that extend beyond the City’s boundaries, and the City taking the lead for subwatershed studies. Several watershed and subwatershed studies have been completed to date, with others currently under way. A map showing the locations of each study, and the jurisdiction of each of our three local Conservation Authorities, is included in the City’s Official Plan.