Monday, June 04, 2007

Drinking the Rideau


I live in a city that, like many cities, has a river running through it. A quick informal poll I conducted suggested that no one would drink water from the Rideau River in Ottawa Ontario. This is disturbing to me especially since I think of Canada as having great fresh water resources. It also just pisses me off that it is acceptable and expected that the water is unsuitable to drink. What exactly is wrong with Rideau water? It is the drinking water to the community of Smith Falls, but they are quite a bit more upstream. All municipalities along the Rideau dispose of treated waste water into the Rideau. However the health of the river must not be that bad because I fish there and catch many bass and I've heard that there are walleye. Also I have seen two large snapping turtles in the Rideau suggesting that even long lived animals aren't dying of toxic pollutants. The Rideau Valley Conservation Authority has a great website explaining water quality and legal aspects about the river. They also have available their sampling data that you can check out with the Watershed Information System. It is a pretty amazing source of information and it gives you water quality data for specific sampling spots along the river. Unfortunately they don't sample within the city of Ottawa and the data is just that, data with no explanation of significance. Fortunately the Rideau Roundtable, a non-profit group of enviromentalists, provides some great data about the river that is more easily digested. Basically the only thing that might be a problem is periodic high levels of E.coli, probably a consequence of waste water but that is not addressed. Low metals, lower phosphorus than ever before since data has been recorded. There are some invasive species but nothing that harmful. Also nitrates are rising slightly but apparently still at acceptable levels.Next time I'm fishing I'm going to drink a cup of it. I'll report back with any symptoms.


6 comments:

Anonymous Coward said...

Wow maybe that should be one of the samples for our next "food challenge" segment of the bayblab podcast...

rob said...

Apparently Smith Falls chlorinates and treats their drinking water. Although not very well.

bdf said...

A cousin of mine is actually doing a research project to detect levels of fecal matter in the Hudson. Not sure what the results are, but I'll let you know if I find out.

Andy said...

But if I had the choice between filtered city water and a fresh cup from some remote stream that has never seen humans before, I'd still pick the city water. There's animal poo in there, and all sorts of microbial nasties that have nothing to do with pollution. Why even bother with the minute risk of EHEC when you can be much more sure of avoiding it by drinking treated water?

Bayman said...

If the Rideau river were clean you'd think more people would swim in it. Yet we have a highly populated downtown area, hot and sticky summer, and a highly accessible river, close to many downtown parks that is pretty much devoid of swimmers all the time. I swam myself a few times upstream of downtown in Mooney's bay, and can tell you the water doesn't feel clean the way many Gatineau lakes do - the water is sticky and greasy - whatever that means - and left me feeling itchy for several days. I remember trying not to suck in any water one time I as I swam through a few oil slicks during a triathlon there. Then again, what do I know, I'm just a displaced salt-water Newfie who grew up in the not-so-mean and pristine clean streets of Ottawa.

But I say the real test is take off those pansy-ass waders and get in that river up to your testicles when you fish from now on. Someone (not me) can keep track of your ball- and ass-scratching frequency from that point onward.

Anonymous Coward said...

Bayman, who told you about my secret fishing technique?