2004 Water — Co-winner 2
Niagara Region, Ontario
Niagara Water Quality Protection Strategy (NWQPS)
The Niagara Region developed the NWQPS in partnership with the Niagara Peninsula Conservation Authority and the Ontario Ministry of Environment to protect water quality in a 2,500-km2 area. The region first examined water-related activities and characteristics in more than 145 separate watersheds and incorporated all of the data into one comprehensive database. The strategy was then developed with roles and responsibilities of various government departments and public agencies clearly laid out, and a long list of prioritized actions was identified. The NWQPS has proven most effective in co-ordinating water management efforts among the Region's water agencies and stakeholder groups and has resulted in several best management practices being applied to sensitive environmental areas. The strategy also included a public education program designed to increase water efficiency.
The Niagara Region is, quite literally, surrounded by water — Lake Ontario, Lake Erie, the Niagara River, and of course, Niagara Falls, one of the natural wonders of the world. Comprising 15 urban and rural municipalities (12 local area municipalities, Regional Niagara and parts of the neighbouring City of Hamilton and Haldimand County), the Niagara Region has many agricultural, tourist and other businesses that put pressure on local water resources.
Several different organizations influence water management, including the Ontario Ministries of Environment, Natural Resources, Fisheries & Oceans, various non-government organizations, and the municipal governments themselves.
The region's water strategy began as an idea in early 2001. "The region and its partners discussed the need for a watershed-based plan to address issues of water quality," recalled Ian Neville, the region's commissioner of public works. "What happened in Walkerton did have an influence. But initially we started the water strategy because so many agencies were working on various components and creating overlap that it became obvious that we needed to co-ordinate our efforts."
The strategy complements the region's Water and Wastewater Master Servicing Plan as well as Smarter Niagara, and the region's sustainable business plan, which identifies water as a high priority.
- Established a watershed co-ordinating body, the Water Strategy Implementation Committee, to oversee all water management issues. Prior to adopting the strategy, many stakeholders had an influence over the Niagara Region's water resources. By coordinating efforts and applying best practices, the strategy identified sensitive environmental areas and the committee works to ensure that the most appropriate methods are used to protect and restore them.
- Created the NWQPS database, which handles all watershed data, from a catalogue of existing information. Updated and consistent data will be added as it becomes available and will be used to pinpoint problem areas and to prepare annual progress reports.
- The strategy addresses the needs of over 145 individual watersheds in the Niagara Region to improve water quality and address human health issues and environmental quality.
- The community is much better informed about the need for water protection and how to use water more efficiently.
- The strategy includes 11 key action programs with over 300 separate actions in the form of projects, studies and policies that will be implemented over the next 30 years.
- The strategy summarized all the municipal, provincial and federal regulations and policies and recommended how those policies can be refined to address future issues.
- DEVELOP A CO-OPERATIVE APPROACH. The region's multidisciplinary approach involved all watershed agencies, each bringing different knowledge and expertise to the table.
- LINE UP RESOURCES EARLY. The region obtained the resources it needed from all its stakeholders early in the process and will rely on the partners' long-term commitments.
- CHAMPIONS. Early in the process, Mr. Neville discussed the need for a water protection strategy with the region's Medical Officer of Health and the General Manager of the NPCA. "They planted the seed and said that we needed an overriding strategy as opposed to dealing with issues on a one-on-one basis." Representatives from the NPCA and the Public Health department sat on the steering committee.
- GET COMMUNITY "BUY IN." Mr. Neville stressed the need to fully embrace the community to maintain their interest and dedication. "It's important that all the stakeholders see the 'light at the end of the tunnel', "said Mr.Neville. "You can't expect them to participate in something that goes on and on."
- CONCENTRATE ON ACTION. Developing a long-term strategy is important, but having some short-term actions that produce results also helps maintain community interest.
- FOCUS ON THE END GOAL. Mr. Neville recommended that municipalities "start with the end in mind." With the goal of protecting Niagara's water resources at the forefront-and using a structured framework that all partners approved of- the region maintained stakeholder interest and commitment that will ensure the strategy's long-term success.
Partners and Collaboration
- Regional Niagara Public Works Department
- Regional Niagara Planning and Development Department
- Regional Niagara Public Health Department
- Niagara Peninsula Conservation Authority (NPCA)
- Ontario Ministry of Environment
- Ontario Ministry of Agriculture and Food
- Niagara Escarpment Commission
- Environment Canada
- Brock University
- Niagara College
- Niagara District Public and Catholic School Boards
- Ontario Power Generation
- Niagara Chamber of Commerce
- City of Hamilton
- Haldimand County
- All local area municipalities comprising the Niagara Region