The Meduxnekeag River Association is coordinating a water classification project within the Meduxnekeag River watershed.
Water Classification provides a framework under New Brunswick’s Clean Water Act to help communities plan and set goals for water quality, and to help them achieve their water quality goals through action planning and watershed management.
The Water Classification Regulation defines classification as " …a water management method used to harmonize the use and protection of watercourses. In general, it involves categorizing watercourses into classes, and then managing those watercourses according to goals or standards set for each class".
Over the next year, we will be gathering, and sharing, as much information about the Meduxnekeag as we can. Its history: what it was like and how it has been used in the past; its present condition, based on the results of water quality and other tests we’ve been carrying out; what’s special about it; and, what vision people who live here have for its future.
Figure 1. Water Classification of a Typical Watershed.
The boundaries of this watershed are represented by the thin black line. To the right is a sub-watershed within the larger watershed. These waters supply drinking water to a downstream municipality and are clasified AP. The lake at the left of the map is classified AL. A small lake and tributary at the top of the map is classified in the Outstanding Natural Waters class. Other waters in the watershed are classified A,B, or C.
This classification process involves five steps:
- Identify and involve residents and stakeholders
- Evaluate the river system - gather and analyze water quality information, land and water use information
- Reach, through consensus, a vision and a plan for classification of surface water in the Meduxnekeag watershed
- Develop an action plan that addresses issues and promotes the vision
- Recommend the water classification and begin to implement the action plan.
This process is expected to take about 18 months to complete.
Involving residents and stakeholders
The residents and stakeholders have a stake - an interest - in the Meduxnekeag River and how part or all of its watershed is managed. The water classification project relies on resident and stakeholder involvement to lay the ground work. We will be using a number of ways – mailings, newsletters, one-on-one meetings, public meetings, our website – to solicit input and feedback. Knowing the history of the watershed, its current uses, and what people see as water related issues now and in the future will be integral components of public process.
What is important to you about the Meduxnekeag River, its tributaries and its watershed? How has it changed from the way it used to be? What do you know about it that should be included in the classification process? How do you use it? How do you think it should be used in the future? What concerns do you have about the Meduxnekeag or about the classification process?
Evaluating the river system
Over the past three summers, we have collected water samples from more than a dozen sites; water temperatures and pH readings have been recorded; we’ve done fish surveys and collected benthic samples to find out what lives on the river bottom. By examining the existing water quality and understanding how land use contributes to water quality, each watercourse within the Meduxnekeag watershed can be placed into one of six possible “classes” based on:
- specific existing provincial standards for water quality, which have been set to protect suitable uses of the water
- biological standards for aquatic life, set to protect the habitat function of the water and to help indicate the water quality
management features designed to help achieve or maintain the desired water quality goals
The ecological, social and economic consequences of classifying a watercourse in a given class will be considered by residents and stakeholders to ensure long-term impacts of the classification do not negatively impact the Meduxnekeag watershed and those that live and work here.
Planning for classification
There are six possible classes under the New Brunswick water classification system. The first three are designed to protect special uses of some of our waters:
Outstanding Natural Waters Class - a class for special lakes and rivers
These waters remain relatively unaffected by human activities and possess an unaltered, natural water quality, quantity, and biology. They may be unique or they may represent good examples of typical natural water quality commonly found in New Brunswick. These lakes or rivers tend to be located at the headwaters of river systems. Their protection will safeguard downstream water quality and quantity. The goal of the Outstanding Natural Waters Class is to protect the water quality of these watercourses for posterity in their natural state. These waters are classified through a nomination process, involving objective selection criteria and a Review Panel.
AP Class - a class for designated surface drinking water supplies (potable or drinking
water) These are waters of watercourses that are designated as Protected Areas under the
Watershed Protected Area Designation Order - Clean Water Act.
AL Class - a class for lakes, ponds and impoundments
These are lakes, ponds or impoundments that are not classified into the Outstanding Natural
Waters Class or into the AP Class.
The remaining three classes are primarily for rivers and streams, or segments of rivers and streams that are not placed into one of the first three classes. These three classes are likely to best reflect the majority of the Meduxnekeag watershed:
A Class - These are waters that can support use as habitat for aquatic life, use for primary contact activities such as swimming and secondary contact activities such as boating. These watercourses
would be managed to have water quality and aquatic life as it occurs naturally;
B Class - These are waters that can support use as habitat for aquatic life, use for primary contact activities such as swimming and secondary contact activities such as boating. These watercourses
would be managed to have water quality that would support all native species, and to maintain health in the resident aquatic community;
C Class - These are waters that can support use as habitat for aquatic life, and use for secondary contact activities such as boating, but not for primary contact activities such as swimming. These
watercourses would be managed to have water quality that would support native fish species
and, although changes to the aquatic community could occur, the resulting aquatic community
would be viable.
Once a watercourse is classified, the water quality stand
February 23, 2007
water, it will be an infraction to use the water, or the land within the watershed associated with the watercourse in a way that will, directly or indirectly:
- cause the quality of the water to cease to meet the class standards
- cause the quality of the water to degrade in relation to the class standards
- impede or stop any progress that the quality of the water may have been making toward meeting the class standards
In most cases, the existing water quality will meet the standards set for water quality, and most activities in the watershed will already be in compliance.The provisional classification will represent the synthesis of information already gathered and analyzed. Residents and stakeholders will have the opportunity to comment on the provisional classification, with resulting revisions being made prior to the classification being recommended to the Department of Environment and Local Government.
Through the participation of residents and stakeholders an action plan will be developed to support the various classifications of the Meduxnekeag watershed. Actions to achieve water quality goals can include the design and implementation of activities to meet the water quality standards, conditions on permits and approvals issued by the Department of Environment and Local Government, voluntary use of best management practices by residents and stakeholders in the watershed; and, various community-based initiatives aimed at improving or maintaining water quality.
Recommending the water classification
Once each watercourse in the watershed is classified a recommendation is forwarded to the Minister of Environment and Local Government. The Minister considers the recommendations of the classification process, and where necessary may undertake additional consultation with residents and stakeholders regarding the proposed classification of the watercourses of the Meduxnekeag watershed. The Minister then makes a final decision and informs the public of the result of the classification process.
Once accepted by the Minister, the Meduxnekeag watershed classification becomes a regulation of the Clean Water Act. Future changes to the classification only occur after careful consideration by government and those involved in the region. Changes may occur as a result of shifting environmental, social or economic priorities, improvements in water quality, and ongoing input from residents and stakeholders.
Implementing the Action Plan
The action plan is the basis for the implementation of activities at the watershed level to achieve the vision and goals identified during the water classification process. The participation of residents and other stakeholders working together, establishing partnerships with local organizations and agencies having similar or overlapping mandates will create the environment necessary to implement the action plan. In consultation with residents and stakeholders the action items can be prioritized in order to address issues and problems in a systematic and efficient manner. Ensuring clean water flows in the Meduxnekeag watershed that support a variety of uses and meet the needs of residents and stakeholders now and in the future will be the direct responsibility of the residents and stakeholders.
If you have any questions, comments or information you wish to share with us, our office is located at 109 Regent St, Unit 10, Woodstock, NB. Or we can be reached by phone at 328-8227.
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