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Water Today Title January 27, 2021

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Watershed Management



This story is brought to you in part by Farm Energy Inc.

By Cori Marshall

The Government of Ontario is investing $5 million in a "Watershed Conservation and Management Initiative" in the Muskoka watershed region. A Ministry of the Environment, Conservation and Parks news release said that "the government will also match tax-deductible donations from people and business to the initiative, and any funding from other levels of government, up to a total of an additional $5 million."

In the communiqué Minister of the Environment, Conservation and Parks, Rod Phillips was quoted as saying "the Muskoka Watershed is one of the highlights of our province and a vibrant hub of Ontario's tourism industry, [...] this is why we are committed to working with the local community to protect it."

The release underlined the importance of watershed management, "especially at times when watersheds are facing pressures due to stresses such as increased development and flooding caused by severe weather events."

The initiative will also address concerns raised by community members, that includes the North Bala Hydro project. Though the initiative focuses on the health of the watershed itself, a large part of the announcement focused on maintaining tourism in the region.

Denelle Balfour, Media Relations, Ministry of Tourism, Culture, and Sport, said that the region itself has "1,500 lakes, 14,000 kilometres of shoreline and various national parks." The region draws visitors year round and is "known as the heart of Ontario's 'cottage country'."

"In 2016 there were 3.2 million domestic visits in Muskoka District Municipality," Balfour said, and "visitors spent $501 million, with 42% spent on food and beverage, 22% on accommodations and 18% on transportation."

The need to protect the watershed, at least from the economic standpoint, comes into focus when you take into account that 53% of the visitors to the Municipality took part in activities that involved water including boating and beach going.

When looking at the region as a whole, during 2016 "there were 4.7 million domestic and overseas visits," Balfour said. The breakdown of the spending is comparable to that spent in the District Municipality, though total spending reached $779 million.

We contacted the Ministry of the Environment, Conservation and Parks, though at the time of publishing they had yet to respond


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