Overview of Freshwater Quality Monitoring and Surveillance

Environment and Climate change Canada (ECCC) monitors freshwater quality on:

  • federal lands
  • transboundary watersheds
  • inland waters

The Freshwater Quality Monitoring and Surveillance (FWQMS) program activities are accomplished in collaboration with provincial and territorial governments, and in conformity with the Canada Water Act.


Long-term physical-chemical water quality monitoring

Samples collected at over 350 sites to assess status and trends

Longterm water quality monitoring sites in Canada as of 2016 and their classification (Federal, Federal-Provincial, Federal Great Lakes Program, Boundary Waters, or Prairie Provinces Water Board)

More information on long-term physical-chemical water quality monitoring map.

The map shows the active water quality monitoring stations in Canada in 2015. The Pacific Ocean watershed numbers approximately 10 % of stations; the Arctic Ocean watershed numbers 7 % of stations; the Hudson Bay watershed regroups 12 % of stations and finally, the Atlantic Ocean watershed numbers 73 % of stations. View data from long-term physical-chemical water quality monitoring 

Canadian Aquatic Biomonitoring Network (CABIN)

Biological monitoring to assess conditions of aquatic habitats

Cabin biological monitoring sites in Canada as of 2016 and what year they were sampled (2009-2016 or 1983-2008)

More information on Canadian aquatic biomonitoring network map.

This map shows all the sampling sites (over 8000) in the Canadian Aquatic Biomonitoring Network (CABIN). These sites were sampled between 1983 and 2016. The sites are non-uniformly distributed across Canada. The sites are displayed in 2 groups: all sites sampled between 1983 and 2008 and all sites sampled between 2009 and 2016. View interactive Canadian aquatic biomonitoring network map.

Automated water quality monitoring

Samples collected at 19 sites in order to continuously measure specific parameters, such as temperature, conductivity and pH

Automated water quality monitoring sites in Canada as of 2016 and their classification (Federal, Federal-Provincial/Territorial, or Transboundary)

More information on automated water quality monitoring map.

In 2015, there are 22 automated water quality monitoring sites in the Canada. Two transboundary sites exist in British Columbia: one federal and one federal-provincial. In Alberta, there are three federal sites of which one is a transboundary site. In Manitoba, there is one transboundary federal site. In Ontario, there are seven federal sites of which five are transboundary sites. In Quebec, there is one transboundary federal site. New Brunswick has four transboundary federal sites. One federal-provincial site is found in Prince Edward Island. Nova Scotia has two federal sites of which one is a transboundary site. One federal-territorial site is found in Yukon. View data from automated water quality monitoring 

Site or issue-specific surveillance Programs

There are more than 60 water quality surveillance sites associated to the Chemical Management Plan

Surveillance program water quality monitoring sites in Canada as of 2016 and their specific program classification (Chemicals Management Plan (CMP)

More information on site or issue-specific surveillance programs map.

The map shows the active water quality surveillance sites associated to the Chemical Management Plan (CMP) in Canada in 2015. The Pacific Ocean watershed numbers six sites. The Arctic Ocean watershed numbers only two sites, while the Hudson Bay watershed shows 11 sites. Finally, the Atlantic Ocean watershed numbers 44 sites.  View data from site or issue-specific surveillance programs 

A risk-based adaptive management framework

ECCC conducts the monitoring and surveillance activities based on the level of risk to water quality in a watershed. The risk is assessed regarding the stress determined by:

  • the nature
  • the probability
  • the frequency
  • the severity

Through the risk-based adaptive management framework, ECCC optimizes its activities so as to reach results more targeted and better adapted to the needs of users and those of the Canadian population.

The risk-based basin analysis (RBBA)

The risk-based basin analysis (RBBA) is a spatial analysis tool used to quantify the relative risk to water quality in Canada’s 1,138 sub-sub-drainage areas (SSDA’s). The RBBA tool aggregates stress from 16 human activities and classifies basins on a relative risk scale.

Map of Canada showing the sub-sub-drainage areas classified according to their risk factors that can threaten the water quality. The main risk factors are the presence of road networks, pipelines, urban discharges and contaminants, dams and agriculture.

More information on risk based basin analysis map.

The map of Canada showing the sub-sub-drainage areas classified according to their risk factors that can threaten the water quality. The main risk factors are the presence of road networks, pipelines, urban discharges and contaminants, dams and agriculture. A color scale going from light yellow to dark brown shows the intensity of risk, the highest of which is of dark color. The sub-sub-drainage areas associated with the highest risk are concentrated in the Prairies, the Great Lakes, the St. Lawrence River and the Maritimes. Green dots and pink triangles representing the federal sampling sites and the water sampling sites in the lakes, respectively, are spread over the territory.  

In support to resource management initiatives

  • Reports on national and ecosystem-based indicators under the Federal Sustainable Development Strategy
  • Surveillance studies under the Canadian Environmental Protection Act, including the Chemicals Management Plan
  • Monitoring and assessment of Government of Canada priority ecosystems and programs, like the Great Lakes, St. Lawrence River Basin, Lake Winnipeg, and northeastern British Columbia, and through participation in initiatives such as the Canada-Alberta Joint Oil Sands Monitoring Program
  • Development of the freshwater quality indicator (WQI) for the Canadian Environmental Sustainability Indicators (CESI). The WQI measures the ability of freshwater bodies to support aquatic life at selected monitoring stations across Canada.
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