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Watershed Council Makes a Case for Integrated Watershed Management

Integrated Watershed Management in Muskoka paperMuskoka Watershed Council (MWC) approved a paper at its January meeting outlining the need for integrated watershed management (IWM) in Muskoka. The paper formed the basis for MWC’s submission to the Muskoka Watershed Advisory Group and contains a number of recommendations for how to implement IWM in Muskoka.


With our extensive natural areas and numerous lakes and waterways, Muskoka is rich in natural capital, which is vital to our economy and the quality of our lives. Effective management can sustain that capital to the maximum extent possible while permitting the development required to house our population and sustain our economy.


This natural capital – the soils, forests, grasslands, wetlands – also plays a role in determining the flow of water into streams, rivers and lakes. However, we lack a detailed understanding of how natural capital affects flow from place to place across our watershed, and how climate change may modify these regulating processes.


MWC recommends that an advanced form of integrated watershed management (IWM) be implemented in Muskoka, ultimately to drive all aspects of environmental management and land-use planning. Recognizing the strong dependence of the economy and community on a high quality environment, IWM can be designed to meet the needs and goals of every business owner, wage earner, property owner and visitor in the watershed. By integrating socio-economic criteria with environmental management, IWM is intended to create more sustainable communities.


While there are significant challenges in implementing IWM, it is the most appropriate way to move environmental management and land-use planning forward in Muskoka. Nature, particularly in a changing climate, is making the old ways of managing it ineffective. To support the introduction of IWM in Muskoka, MWC has proposed convening stakeholders in a Roundtable, and starting the process of developing the rules and building the collaboration necessary for successful Integrated Watershed Management.


Download your copy of “The Case for Integrated Watershed Management in Muskoka” on the MWC website at




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2 Responses to Watershed Council Makes a Case for Integrated Watershed Management

  1. Doug Setterington says:

    A flood is an overflow of water that submerges land that is usually dry.
    Everything that is held in balance in a watershed plan gets thrown out the window when a flood occurs. There are also numerous additional detrimental consequences resulting from a flood. To not have a plan to mitigate actual flooding is to do nothing. To say that the dams were not built to control flooding is just someone’s opinion. They were built to flood areas and control water levels to facilitate the movement of timber along the waterways. They do control flooding otherwise the Moon river would possibly have catastrophic flooding every spring.
    During a Muskoka flooding event water cannot leave the watershed as fast as it enters. If flow is restricted anywhere along its path, upstream flooding will occur. If an upstream restriction, ie Dam, allows too much volume to pass, then downstream flooding will occur.
    The restrictions in the watershed are paramount to determining maximum flow through the watershed. Beginning with the last exit point and moving upstream the restrictions to flow need to be identified. If the size of these restrictions can be increased then there may be a possibility of flood mitigation.
    During the 2019 Flood all the stop-logs were not out of the Bala Dam. Some had to remain or else the Moon river would have been flooded to the point of catastrophic developmental building damage. This, Bala Dam restriction, in turn led to further increased upstream flooding and damage on Lake Muskoka. Somewhere downstream on the Moon river there is a restriction limiting its flow.
    What is this restriction? Can it be increased cost effectively? Or are we to be prepared for this type of event anytime there is a larger than normal snow pack and untimely spring rains?
    Although this is only one area of the Muskoka watershed, I have yet to see anyone take a common sense approach to the problem.
    All I have read is a bunch of political sidestepping and useless studies and reports. Everything is 40 to 100 pages of useless historical information and everything about watershed management and dissemination of information to the public during a flooding event.
    Identify the direct cause of the restrictions and whether something can or cannot be done please. Otherwise these articles are a waste of my time.

  2. Cory Harris says:

    Doug. This is a common sense approach. By implementing integrated watershed management, land use planning in Muskoka improves. Existing wetlands and low lying areas (i.e. areas of natural capital that store a tremendous amount of floodwater) are no longer filled and developed which prevents flooding from getting worse and helps protect properties that are situated within flood hazard areas. Raising the bar in this way costs the tax payer nothing. It’s just good planning.