NB Water Classification Program

The Petitcodiac Watershed Alliance has been classifying the water quality in the Petitcodiac and Memramcook River Watersheds since 1997. Under the Clean Water Act, a tool has been developed to help communities not only plan and set goals for water quality but also to help them achieve their water quality goals through action planning and watershed management. The Water Classification Regulation defines classification as “a water management method used to harmonize the use and protection of watercourses. In general, it involves categorizing watercourses into classes, and then managing those watercourses according to goals or standards set for each class”.

Water classification: its objectives

Water classification will accomplish the following:

  • provide a framework to protect the lakes and rivers of the province and improve consistency in managing our watercourses
  • ensure clean sustainable water for many uses
  • promote public stewardship of our lakes and rivers

Classification means that each river system will have:

  • a description of suitable uses
  • specific standards for water quality, set to protect suitable uses of the water
  • management features designed to achieve or maintain the desired water quality goals and standards

Water classification: categories

Following are the 6 classes* for water quality management:
O – Outstanding natural waters
AP – Designated drinking water supplies
AL – All lakes not classified as either O or AP
A – Excellent water quality
B – Good water quality
C – Acceptable water quality

*All of the classes established in the Regulation have aquatic life standards that require the protection of aquatic life.

Water classification: Step-wise process

The classification of water will categorize each watercourse in categories. Following are the different steps to achieve water classification.

Step 1: Introduction of Water Classification

This first step involves, familiarizing the group with water classification, holding information sessions throughout the watershed and identifying and recruiting stakeholders. Stakeholder involvement is the key to a successful classification.

Stakeholders and water classification approach
A stakeholder is an individual or organization who has a direct or indirect interest in a watershed area. They may have a special interest in protecting water resources or enhancing the socio-economic aspects of quality of life. A multi-stakeholder approach is simply the involvement of all stakeholders in the decision-making process dealing with the issues that involve the watershed. Water classification is rooted in a multi-stakeholder approach. Communities and stakeholders working together to accomplish goals for their watershed is what water classification is all about.

Working in a multi-stakeholder process has many advantages. It increases access to issues and decision making, it brings ideas from different points of view to the decision making process, it increases the available resources to accomplish goals and it reduces the chance of unforeseen delays. Including a broad base of stakeholders in decision-making creates a team that combines the expertise, authority, and interest of each organization.

Step 2: Watershed Evaluation

In this second step, we will have to define the boundaries of the watershed (mapping), measure and interpret existing water quality data, collect new water quality data, collect historical data on water quality that will help us build a picture of how water quality may have changed in the watershed over the years, map land cover and land use and identify potential sources of pollution in the watershed that will help us understand why the water quality is the way it is and what we will have to do to remedy certain situations.

Step 3: Planning for classification

After interpreting water quality data, studying land use and land cover, identifying sources of pollution and consulting with stakeholders we will be able to prepare a provisional classification. The provisional classification will then be presented to the public and stakeholders. We will then revise comments from the public and stakeholders and revise the proposal.

Step 4: Action Planning

Finally, in the last step of classification we will recommend a revised classification scheme to the Minister of the Environment and develop action plans to achieve the desired classification.


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