First, and definitely most important, is that, of the 30 watersheds that the P.E.I. Department of Environment compiled water quality report cards on this year, those are the only ones that received an ‘excellent’ rating.
The other point those watersheds hold in common is they have the highest concentration of forests of all the watersheds evaluated.
Approximately 80 per cent of the landmass around both Percival and Bear is forested and North Late is close to that percentage.
Considering that nitrate concentration, anoxic events, run-off and siltation, along with other observations like water temperature and algae growth, are the types of data Environment staff use in grading the watersheds, it’s no wonder those streams score high.
By the way, of the 30 watersheds scored, nitrate levels were rated as low in only seven of them, including the three that scored ‘excellent’ for water quality.
Conversely, it’s no wonder streams like Mill River and Trout River, which have high nitrate levels and have incurred run-off related fish kills, scored ‘poor’.
The nitrate over-loading that occurs in many Island streams is largely a result of agricultural practices and run-off.
With forests surrounding it, there is very little chance of run-off or nitrate overloads entering the Percival. Gold stars for Percival. Of course, surrounding itself with land that is not suitable for agricultural use or cottages has worked to that river’s advantage.
So, re-establish forests around all other streams on Prince Edward Island and just watch the water quality improve. Well, that would work, but can we see that ever happening? Not anytime soon. Not with agricultural land still in demand. Not with river views still sought after by cottage owners.
Our environment would be healthier, too, if we all went back to horse-and-buggies and rowboats, but that’s not going to happen, either.
But we can’t let things go. No, that hasn’t been working in our favour. We can’t be clogging our streams with silt and we can’t be loading our groundwater and streams with nitrates.
If planting trees along streams and wider agricultural buffer zones will take care of the problem, then let’s make it happen. If more action is needed to make even a dent in the problem, then do it.
The problems are not new. With every tree that is removed along a stream and every hedgerow that’s removed, our natural environment is weakened more. We’re just adding to the problems and that has to stop.
Poor quality water is not good for fish and wildlife. It’s not good for tourism. It insults our environment.
And it’s not just our streams. The nitrate overload is in our groundwater and it is sickening.