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Millhaven Creek Pilot Project
The Cataraqui Region Conservation Authority, the Ministry of Environment, and Conservation Ontario conducted a pilot project to examine water flows and water taking permits in the Millhaven Creek system. This two part project was one of three in Ontario, and it looked at various techniques on how to measure water flow in the Millhaven Creek watershed, and on how much water can be taken from the creek system without causing any environmental problems. The other two pilot studies were conducted by the Long Point Region Conservation Authority, and Grand River Conservation Authority. The results from each of the three pilot studies will be used as a basis for testing alternative flow methods and for assigning instream flow requirements for a number of streams and rivers across Ontario.
The Millhaven Creek watershed starts at Gould Lake and includes Sydenham Lake and Odessa Lake. It flows generally southwest for approximately 50km through the communities of Sydenham and Odessa and empties into Lake Ontario at the village of Millhaven. The Millhaven Creek system has a drainage area of approximately 176 square kilometres.
The project examines existing water demands on the Millhaven Creek system. There have been seven Permits to Take Water (PTTW) in the watershed, two of which are still active (require renewal in 2013/14). The two existing permits are both water supply permits, one for the municipal supply of Sydenham which withdraws from Sydenham Lake, the other for a housing corporation in Sydenham, which has a well. There are also over 1300 residential wells and 300 waterfront residences along the Millhaven Creek system that could be taking quantities of water without requirement for a permit. Additional water demands on the system include dilution of sewage effluent in Odessa, emergency fire fighting reserves and the needs of flora and fauna.
In the summer of 2003, the Cataraqui Region Conservation Authority staff conducted the first phase of the two-part study by compiling detailed background information on the watershed through field work. This information included mapping the Millhaven Creek watershed, gathering information on the wildlife that is present, their habitats, and gathering data on the plant life and geology.Measurements were also taken along the Millhaven Creek system such as stream flow and depth. There is only one full-time stream gauge in the Millhaven watershed and it is located downstream of Lennox & Addington County Road 4. Lack of continuous data means flow rate was measured at locations along the creek to relate flow at the stream gauge station to other spots on the creek. There are additional full-time stations located on either side of the Millhaven watershed, on Wilton and Collins Creeks. Data from both of these gauges was also used in the study.
Phase 1 of the project concluded that the Millhaven Creek watershed appears to be a healthy system with a diverse community of species. It was also found that the Millhaven watershed has minimal water usage and that the existing water taking permits are not consumptive and appear to have a minimal effect on the system, since the water will find its way back to the watershed. The greatest effect on the watershed may be from residential uses by local landowners including lawn watering, garden watering, and livestock watering. This seems to cause the flow to shift drastically on a daily basis. In addition, many landowners have constructed rock weirs in the creek to hold water for personal use. These impoundments can increase evaporation losses, magnify the rise and fall of the water, as well as constricting fish movement along the creek system.
An additional field season was funding for 2004 as well. This allowed more data to be collected, as well as providing data from the spring-time of the year. Spring was a time which was not captured in the 2003 field season.
Once the field work was completed, the next portion of the study consisted of analysing the gathered information and determining what measures and guidelines need to be taken to protect the Millhaven Creek system from any adverse ecological impacts while trying to accommodate water users.
Phase one of the project concluded that, between field work and using statistical methods, conducting field work is the most reliable method for determining instream flow. A multiple year field program of gathering information on the wildlife, plant life, geology, and water chemistry will give a better indication of the requirements of the methods used for the study, account for changes at various times of the year, and whether things are stable, improving, or degrading.
The ultimate finding of the Millhaven Creek Pilot Project is that the stream is healthy, though there is limited, if any, water available for additional larger scale withdrawals.
The ultimate goal of the three projects is to create a province-wide protocol for required measurements and information to make estimates on instream flow requirements on any watercourse in the province. This, in turn, will provide a province-wide database, which can be used for estimates in unstudied watercourses of the province.
The final report was completed in fall 2005. A day long session was held in Toronto to present the methodology and findings of each of the projects. The session was well attended by staff from the Province (MOE, MNR), Federal Agencies (DFO), and Conservation Authorities, and the studies were well received.
Copies of the studies are available here on the Conservation Ontario website.
©2008 Cataraqui Region Conservation Authority