5. Conclusions


Overall, the activities carried out under the Water Quality and Aquatic Ecosystems Health Program continue to be relevant, given the ongoing need to assess water quality for various uses, identify water quality threats and trends over time, and determine the effectiveness of environmental programs. The Program is aligned with federal legislation, such as the Department of the Environment Act, Canada Water Act and Fisheries Act, and supports priority programs. Because the responsibilities for water quality management in Canada are shared with the provinces, the Program administrators maintain consistency with federal responsibilities by developing and implementing inter-jurisdictional water quality monitoring agreements.

Performance – effectiveness

Water quality research is carried out in priority areas, including those related to the oil sands, the Arctic and the Chemicals Management Plan. Credible water quality and aquatic ecosystems health information is produced collaboratively and made available to the public and to stakeholders. This information is used by water resource managers across Canada to draft policies, supervise activities, assess impacts, and understand water quality status and trends. However, there are still areas in need of improvement related to public data access and timeliness of freshwater quality monitoring data to inform decision-making. Program staff are trying to address these issues by using new procedures, protocols and technologies, but progress has been delayed and more work is needed in these areas.

Key risks have been identified and assessed for the freshwater and marine monitoring programs and are being used to manage activities. For marine water quality monitoring, through the CSSP, Program staff use pollution surveys and surveillance to target activities and minimize risks associated with the consumption of shellfish. A considerable amount of work has been done to prioritize freshwater quality monitoring activities through the development of a risk based approach (RBA) that includes a comprehensive assessment of freshwater quality monitoring sites. While substantial progress has been made, the approach has yet to be fully implemented, thereby limiting the full extent to which the benefits of the approach can be realized.

Performance – efficiency and economy

Program staff are using efficient operational procedures, including moving from a regional to an integrated watershed-based approach and introducing a risk-based approach to monitoring. The Program also uses a collaborative delivery model to enhance efficiencies.

Overall, governance of the key Program components was found to be clearly defined. Specific governance for multi-stakeholder Program components is defined either in formal water quality agreements or MOUs, or by committees.

Performance information is collected and reported every year, primarily at the output level, and client satisfaction measurements have recently been implemented. The quality indicators for both freshwater and marine water (i.e., shellfish growing areas) are part of the Canadian Environmental Sustainability Indicators. However, the Program does not have a performance measurement strategy or formally approved logic model that clearly communicates its intended outcomes for the immediate and longer terms, or identifies how progress toward these outcomes will be measured.

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