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Ducks Unlimited Canada Builds Rural Wetlands that Improve Water Quality
Middlesex County, Ont.—Ducks Unlimited Canada (DUC) is helping local governments innovate in water quality management. A new municipal drain near Melbourne, ON, is buffered by wetlands to hold and filter water from the surrounding farm fields.
DUC and its partners, the Municipality of Southwest Middlesex and Ontario NativeScape, are capturing water in an engineered wetland from more than 200 acres (80 hectares) of tiled farmland, reducing excess nutrients that reach the Thames River and eventually Lake Erie. This will help mitigate toxic algal blooms.
“We’re always seeking ways to manage water without affecting other land uses, like agriculture,” says Darrell Randell, conservation specialist for DUC. “There are no adverse impacts here to upstream landowners and many benefits to the river and wildlife.”
DUC and Ontario NativeScape worked with the municipality, the drainage engineer and the landowner to create three ponds that retain water at the drain’s outlet. Fast-flowing farm drainage may carry phosphorus and other nutrients, and the wetlands will filter them.
The wetland functions as natural infrastructure to complement the municipal drain. Wetlands contribute to water and air quality, slow floodwaters, and provide shelter and food for birds and other wildlife.
DUC targets wetlands for restoration near municipal drains in southwestern Ontario, working hand-in-hand with municipalities and landowners. Municipal drains—regulated under the Drainage Act—are a substantial feature of rural infrastructure. In many ways, they act as tributaries to convey water to rivers and then downstream to lakes, including Lake Erie.
“I’m happy to see innovative partnerships like this one, which will help improve water quality in the local watershed,” said the Hon. Monte McNaughton, Minister of Infrastructure and MPP for Lambton-Kent-Middlesex. “Protecting our natural infrastructure will benefit the health of our people and surrounding wildlife in Southwestern Ontario, which is good news for everyone.”
Elizabeth Cummings is Utilities/Drainage Superintendent for Southwest Middlesex. “Southwest Middlesex is excited to see the Drainage Act used as a tool to promote environmental enhancements for healthy watersheds. We were pleased to assist in forming the partnership between landowners and the agencies for this project. We look forward to being a part of more projects of this nature in the future.”
Lindsay Buchanan is Ontario NativeScape’s private land manager. “Wetlands are critical in the process of improving water quality. There are numerous opportunities to implement projects like the wetland at the Keet Drain that use innovative approaches to restore formerly wet areas adjacent to rivers, creeks and agricultural drains.”
The four-acre (1.6-hectare) wetland went to work right away following construction, retaining water up to the spillway in less than two weeks, even in this past summer’s very dry conditions.
“Without the new dams at the municipal drain, that water would have flowed straight to the Thames River,” says Randell.
About Ducks Unlimited Canada
Ducks Unlimited Canada (DUC) is the leader in wetland conservation. A registered charity, DUC partners with government, industry, non-profit organizations and landowners to conserve wetlands that are critical to waterfowl, wildlife and the environment.
Head of Communications and Outreach Support
Ducks Unlimited Canada
705-721-4444, ext. 240