New Brunswick

ACAP Saint John celebrates changes to city's waterways on World Water Day

ACAP Saint John is celebrating World Water Day and hopes the theme of this year's international observance, Water for All, will help inspire more positive changes in the city's relationship with its bodies of water.

Marsh Creek, once an 'industrialized, degraded stream," shows marked improvements, says executive director

Graeme Stewart-Robertson of ACAP Saint John says a recent study around Ashburn Lake Road showed a wide variety of species present, including the American eel, which is a species at risk. (Connell Smith, CBC)

It's World Water Day, an international observance to celebrate the importance of fresh water and to take a closer look at how to manage it sustainably.

Friday also marks 25 years that the Atlantic Coastal Action Program in Saint John has been monitoring waters in the city.

"It's really exciting to have that period of time as an environmental monitoring organization," said executive director Graeme Stewart-Robertson.

The estimated 14,000 data points ACAP Saint John has collected since 1993 are all available online in an open data source that "allows people to take a look at that history, to be a part of the science and the understanding of just how far we've come."

Stewart-Robertson cites Marsh Creek on the city's east side as an excellent example of how of how "an industrialized, degraded stream can begin its recovery."

Marsh Creek has seen many improvements since 2014, when it looked like this, says the head of ACAP Saint John. (Brian Chisholm/CBC)

Not only has Marsh Creek lost its raw sewage stench, it has seen marked improvements in virtually all measures, including particular contaminant levels, such as fecal coliform, and improved oxygen levels, which means it's becoming a more viable place to support larger fish populations, he said.

"That's something that I think a lot of us can identify with, especially as Maritimers, as Atlantic Canadians — feeling like our water bodies are full of life and are vibrant places within our community."

The creek "still has a way to go," but Stewart-Robertson remembers standing in the water years ago and seeing nothing but a "cloud of toilet paper and other unmentionables." Today, it's clear.

"So to see that improvement and then to see now it quantified scientifically as well is quite exciting," he said.

It's an international observance to celebrate the importance of fresh water, and to take a closer look at how we manage it sustainably. Graeme Stewart-Robertson is ACAP's executive director. 9:39

The city has also done a phenomenal job with its Clean, Safe Drinking Water project,  said Stewart-Robertson.

But he hopes the 2019 World Water Day theme, Water for All, will inspire people to think about other areas for improvements, including access for recreational and cultural use, the mental and physical health benefits those can bring, as well as economic development.

"We are the estuary of the river, we are where the river meets the bay, where the second largest watershed on the eastern seaboard meets the highest tides in the world, where the river runs 'from swerve of shore to bend of bay,' to steal a James Joyce line," he said.

"And I think that seeing these improvements means we can rekindle our relationship with our waters throughout the city."

With files from Information Morning Saint John