Spring Safety Message:
Be Careful Around Waterways

Hazardous Conditions On and Around Bodies of Water

February 25, 2021, Toronto, ON – Toronto and Region Conservation Authority (TRCA) is reminding residents of the dangers that exist near bodies of water around this time of year and urging people to keep family and pets away from the edges of all waterways.

TRCA acknowledges the increased interest from citizens to enjoy outdoor activities in nature during the COVID pandemic. However, with spring approaching, warmer temperatures usually bring rain, melting snow, and shifting ice, which can contribute to higher, faster flowing water in watercourses and unstable conditions on ice covered waterbodies.

a fragile layer of ice covers the water at Marie Curtis Park

Although the Greater Toronto Area (GTA) had a slow start to the winter season during the months of December and January, the month of February was contrary to that, bringing cold air temperatures and lots of snow. This has resulted in a significant amount of river ice formation in local watercourses as well as a large snowpack amount.

Currently, there are no reported or observed ice jams within TRCA’s jurisdiction. However, conditions and risk of ice jamming can change very quickly in the coming weeks.

Daytime high air temperatures have already begun trending above zero degrees Celsius this week, and the long term forecast for the next two weeks also indicate consistent temperatures near or above zero degrees for the GTA. The warming temperatures will assist in the gradual melting of the snowpack amount and current river ice cover. However, safety and flooding risks will continue in the upcoming weeks during the transition to spring.

Melting snow due to warming temperatures, combined with spring rainfall and frozen ground conditions throughout the jurisdiction, could contribute to higher and faster flowing water in local watercourses. The current river ice coverage in TRCA’s watercourses can also result in ice jams if air temperatures and river flows increase quickly — learn more about ice jams here.

Slippery and unstable streambanks and extremely cold water temperatures can also lead to dangerous conditions close to any body of water. Ice and snow cover on watercourses, lakeshore areas, or other bodies of water will weaken and become unstable with warmer temperatures.

Be safe this spring and remember the following tips:

  • Keep family and pets away from the edges of all bodies of water.
  • Avoid all recreational activities in or around water, especially near ice jams or ice-covered watercourses and waterbodies.
  • Do not attempt to walk on ice-covered waterbodies or drive through flooded roads or fast-moving water.
  • If you live close to the water, move objects such as chairs or benches away from the water’s edge to avoid losing them during potential spring high water.
  • Avoid walking close to/across riverbanks and ice-covered water to prevent falling through. River banks can become unstable in the spring due to snowmelt and erosion.
  • Rescuing another person or a pet from icy water is dangerous. If you see anyone that has fallen through the ice call 911 for help immediately.

The International Lake Ontario-St. Lawrence River Board (ILOSRB) is forecasting a slow, seasonal rise in Lake Ontario water levels in the coming weeks, which is normal for this time of year. Lake Ontario water levels are currently lower than they were this time last year by approximately 0.6m. However, it should be noted that Lake Erie water levels remain high and will continue to contribute significant volumes of water to Lake Ontario this year.

It is still too early to forecast peak water levels for Lake Ontario for this upcoming spring and summer season. The range of forecast levels depends on various factors including: the inflows from Lake Erie, which currently remain above normal levels; the spring rainfall and runoff amounts into Lake Ontario which are yet to occur; as well as the spring peak flow of the Ottawa River into the St. Lawrence River, which will influence the outflow of Lake Ontario at the Moses-Saunders Dam in Cornwall.

For more information about Lake Ontario water levels and forecast, please visit the International Lake Ontario-St. Lawrence River Board website.

For more information, contact your local Conservation Authority.

About Toronto and Region Conservation Authority (TRCA)

With more than 60 years of experience, TRCA is one of 36 Conservation Authorities in Ontario, created to safeguard and enhance the health and well-being of watershed communities through the protection and restoration of the natural environment and the ecological services the environment provides. More than five million people live within TRCA-managed watersheds, and many others work in and visit destinations across the jurisdiction. These nine watersheds, plus their collective Lake Ontario waterfront shorelines, span six upper-tier and 15 lower-tier municipalities. Some of Canada’s largest and fastest growing municipalities, including Toronto, Markham and Vaughan, are located entirely within TRCA’s jurisdiction.

Media Contact:
Michael Tolensky
Chief Financial and Operating Officer
Toronto and Region Conservation Authority (TRCA)
416-706-9093 | michael.tolensky@trca.ca