World Rivers Day – Three Ways TRCA Is Making A Difference In The Rivers of the Toronto Region

The Don River

Taking place on September 22, 2019, World Rivers Day is a global celebration of the world’s waterways. Highlighting the many values of our rivers, World Rivers Day strives to increase public awareness of the importance of rivers and the threats they face and encourages the improved stewardship of rivers around the world.

In large cities like those in the Toronto region, urbanization also has a significant impact on the health of rivers. For example, with more that 3.5 million people living within the Greater Toronto Area, and with the population expected to grow significantly in the years to come, it’s more important than ever to protect rivers for the species who depend on them and the health and enjoyment of residents and visitors.

Toronto and Region Conservation Authority (TRCA) is heavily engaged in protecting rivers. It was created to safeguard and enhance the health and well-being of communities in the nine watersheds of the Toronto region through the protection and restoration of the natural environment. As stewards of the rivers and creeks in its jurisdiction, TRCA restores and naturalizes riverbanks, monitors and communicates the risks of river flooding to the public, hosts community events to foster support for the protection of rivers and more.

In the spirit of World Rivers Day, here are just three of the ways that TRCA is making a difference in the rivers of the Toronto region:

1. Monitoring the Health of Our Rivers

TRCA monitors fish communities, aquatic insects, habitat features, and temperatures within local rivers to assess aquatic health. Some of the key indicators of river health are:

  • Benthos – Examples of benthos include worms, snails, mussels, leeches, crayfish and more. These species are useful as water quality indicators because they live on the bottom of rivers and are sensitive to disturbances in the environment.
  • Fish Communities and Habitat – Fish are excellent indicators of stream health because they are easy to collect and identify in the field, are sensitive to changes in their environment, and can indicate forms of pollution that chemical tests may miss.
  • Water Temperature – TRCA collects water temperature data using seasonal and year-round temperature loggers. Temperature is a major factor that determines which aquatic species, fish or insects, live in a particular stream, and is an important indicator of the effects of urbanization and climate change on river health.

2. The Don Mouth Naturalization and Flood Protection Project

The Don River watershed is one of the most urbanized regions in Canada, covering an area of approximately 36,000 hectares, and stretching almost 38 kilometres in length. In 1994, the first official Don River Watershed Management Plan, “Forty Steps to a New Don,” set out to achieve a revitalized and resilient watershed, flowing with life-sustaining water through regenerated natural habitats and sustainable human communities from its headwaters to Lake Ontario. A major transformative effort to achieve this vision, the Don Mouth Naturalization and Port Lands Flood Protection Project (DMNP), is currently underway at the mouth of the river. The precedent-setting project will ultimately transform the existing mouth of the Don River, including the Keating Channel, into a healthier, more naturalized river outlet, while simultaneously providing critical flood protection to 240 hectares of Toronto’s eastern waterfront. Supported by all levels of government, the projects is led by Waterfront Toronto with support from TRCA. Click here to stay up to date on the project’s milestones.

3. Stewardship of the Humber River

In 1999, the Humber River was officially designated under the Canadian Heritage Rivers System (CHRS) for its significant cultural and recreational values, thanks to the collaborative efforts of TRCA, the Humber Heritage Community and dedicated community members. With a rich history as a home for Indigenous peoples who lived along its banks, an early transportation route known as the Carrying Place Trail, and as a site for many of Toronto’s post-European settlement homes and industries, the Humber River is the only urban Canadian Heritage River in the Greater Toronto Area.

Humber River Stewardship
The Humber River was designated to the Canadian Heritage Rivers System in 1999.

This year, TRCA celebrated the 20th anniversary of the river’s designation with a launch event attended by the Lieutenant Governor of Ontario, the “Humber By Canoe” community paddling event and more. In celebrating, TRCA reflected upon the many accomplishments in protecting, restoring and enhancing the Humber River over the past two decades, and looks forward to future opportunities for heritage preservation, collaboration, engagement and enjoyment of the river.

Humber Heritage River designation 20th anniversary
The 20th anniversary of the Humber River’s designation is celebrated at Humber By Canoe.

Click here to learn more about the Humber River’s designation and the work that TRCA is doing in the area.

For more information about how TRCA is protecting rivers and building awareness about the importance of rivers, visit For more information on how you can get involved in river stewardship and participate in community events in your area, visit