Land Use Impacts on Freshwater Quality

For the 2008 to 2010 period, freshwater quality differed by land use category. Areas with a combination of human settlements, agriculture and mining had significantly more stations with a poor or marginal freshwater quality ranking. Good and excellent freshwater quality was found significantly more often in remote areas.

Freshwater quality by land use category for the 2008 to 2010 period, Canada

Freshwater quality by land use category for the 2008 to 2010 period, Canada

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How this indicator was calculated

Note: Freshwater quality was assessed using the Canadian Council of Ministers of the Environment’s Water Quality Index.
Source: Water quality data were assembled by Environment Canada from existing federal, provincial, territorial and joint water quality monitoring programs. Population, mining and land cover statistics for each station’s drainage area were provided by Statistics Canada.

Land use, or how humans have developed and managed land around a river, affects freshwater quality. Water running off of agricultural fields and city streets and discharged from mines or wastewater treatment plants can cause poor or marginal freshwater quality in nearby rivers. In contrast, freshwater quality in remote areas is mainly determined by local soil conditions and tends to be rated excellent or good, given there is less human development and rivers are surrounded by plants and trees. Marginal or poor water quality can, however, occur in these areas, due to pollution travelling long distances through the air.

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