Watershed Entities & Plans
Measures the percent of Canada’s 167 sub-watersheds which have a watershed entity and a plan for the watershed

Getting data to report on this impact measure is a work in progress. This shared measurement system belongs to all members of the Our Living Water Network, so if you have any data or ideas to share with us on this measure, please send us an email at [email protected].


Watershed governance refers to the the ways in which decisions are made and upheld within a watershed, which informs how well our water is managed. Whereas the Watershed Governance impact measure identifies mechanisms to support watershed governance within the 25 major watersheds of Canada, this impact measure examines the extent to which watershed entities are present within the 167 sub-watersheds of Canada including the presence of a watershed plan.

A watershed entity may take many forms. Important to this measure is the presence of an identifiable, multi-partner, watershed-based organization. This means that it has an institutional form, holds meetings, and is tangible. Below, more details are given on the ideal characteristics for a viable and effective watershed entity.

An identifiable watershed plan is also important to guide watershed entities and their decisions. According to the Fraser Basin Council’s guide to watershed planning, a watershed plan is a strategy that assesses the state of a watershed and presents detailed management information in terms of analyses, actions, participants and resources required for developing and implementing the plan. Ecosystems-based planning builds on this by advancing an approach that considers the full range of activities and interactions within a watershed, rather than focusing on isolated issues or species.

Our initial desktop scan (conducted January, 2019)

To gain baseline data for this impact measures, we conducted a desktop scan of Canada's 167 sub-watersheds searching for the existence of a watershed entity and a watershed plan.

The detailed results of this desktop scan can be seen in this Google Sheet.

Please note, there are a number of limitations to acknowledge from this research:

  • There are many types of 'watershed entity' across Canada that fall across a continuum from formalized, to semi-formal, to voluntary and advocacy based. In order for us to 'count' a watershed, we gave preference towards entities on the formal to semi-formal side of the continuum, but recognize that not all may agree with each decision we made. Entities which we included and 'counted', and those we did not 'count' was certainly more of an art than a science.
  • The scope of issues which a 'watershed entity' focuses on also differs. Some focus on many issues, including water. Some focus only on water, but not all aspects of water management. Some are established through a legislative framework, whereas others are more informal. In conclusion, it would not be accurate to claim that any one watershed entity we included in this scan is the same as another. They are as necessarily diverse as the watersheds they exist within.
  • We used the same 167 sub-watersheds as WWF Canada does in their Watershed Reports for our scan. However, most watershed entities that we included focus on a watershed boundary that is either larger or smaller than how they are defined by these 167. 
  • If we found a watershed plan, we included it in our analysis. Inclusion does not indicate how qualitatively 'good' the plan is; such as, the extent to which that plan is ecosystem-based, how well it is being implemented or how likely it is to result in sustainable outcomes.
  • Canada is a large country, and conducting a desktop assessment into all 167 sub-watersheds is likely to contain errors, missed watershed entities, and missed watershed plans. As always, if you see any errors or omissions, please let us know through email ([email protected])

Viable and effective watershed entities

Our initial desktop scan determined to what extent watershed-based organizations exist within Canada's 167 subwatersheds. The scan was inclusive of different types of watershed groups, both formal and semi-formal; including, for example, Ontario’s Conservation Authorities which are established under law, as well as groups like the Kootenay Lake Partnership or the Nechako Watershed Roundtable that serve as watershed collaborations.

This scan, however, did not assess whether these organizations had the characteristics needed to be effective in delivering on their mandate over the long term. In the future, we would like to build from this initial scan to assess the extent to which the identified organizations meet the following characteristics we have set out to define viable, effective ‘watershed entities’:

  • They are an identifiable watershed-based organization with a shared vision and mandate to protect, conserve and restore the health of a watershed.
  • They are recognized by at least one order of government, e.g. Indigenous, local/regional, provincial/territorial, federal.
  • They bring together multiple partners across different sectors and interests.
  • They support the integration of jurisdictional responsibilities.
  • Ideally, they have sustainable funding sources to carry out their mandate over the long-term.

As an example, we have assessed the Bow River Basin Council within the Bow subwatershed against these characteristics. That assessment can be seen here.

5-Year target: To assess subwatersheds for the presence of viable and effective watershed entities.

Last updated March, 2019

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Note: The data presented here represents our best research given the time and resources at hand. We acknowledge there may be errors. This shared measurement system belongs to all members of the Our Living Water Network, so if you have any corrections for us, or ideas to share on this measure, please send us an email at [email protected].

Watershed Entities & Plans|Measures the percent of Canada’s 167 sub-watersheds which have a watershed entity and a plan for the watershed
Watershed Entities & Plans|Measures the percent of Canada’s 167 sub-watersheds which have a watershed entity and a plan for the watershed
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