Over the past 25 years, the PWA has grown from a humble monitoring group to an important contributor to scientific monitoring, habitat improvement, environmental assessments, and education & outreach across the Petitcodiac Watershed. We are proud to share our accomplishments over the years made possible by our dedicated staff, volunteers, and donors.  

Our most well-known contribution to the watershed has been water quality monitoring, a project that began in 1997. Monitoring water quality over time is important because it allows us to detect signs of pollution, toxic algae, or harmful bacteria, all of which can pose a threat to environmental health, human health, and economic activities. We test water quality at 21 different sites along the Petitcodiac Watershed. In 2023, we collected 126 water samples testing 11 parameters at 21 sites for 6 months. From these water samples, 31 resulted in unsafe E.coli concentrations (above 235 bacteria per milliliter) over the 6 months, but our latest report in October 2023 only detected 2 sites, Rabbit Brook and Fox Creek, with unsafe levels of E.coli. We also monitor water temperature using data loggers, a device that records water temperature every hour and transfers this information to our tablet through a Bluetooth connection. In 2023, 14 Data loggers were deployed in the spring to help us understand how temperature varies across the watershed and the months. Data loggers were retrieved in the late fall because the winter conditions and ice would likely damage or move them downstream to be lost.  

Water sample collection site 

Water sample tests in the PWA’s lab  

Since then, we have introduced several more projects over the years. We have evaluated fauna through our Freshwater Mussel Monitoring. Freshwater mussels are bioindicators, meaning that their presence can indicate healthy water or habitat quality since they are sensitive to poor conditions. As such, habitat degradation and pollution have been driving declines in freshwater mussel populations over the past 50 years, so it is important to monitor them and implement habitat management where needed to prevent populations from crashing. There are 66 freshwater mussel sites along the Petitcodiac watershed identified by the Department of Fisheries and Oceans, with 7 freshwater mussel species known to have been previously present across these sites. These species include eastern pearlshell, dwarf wedge mussel, triangle floater, alewife floater, eastern elliptio, eastern floater, and brook floater. Between 2018 and 2022 the PWA completed assessments across 35 sites and identified 6 of the 7 species, the dwarf wedge mussel was not found. Unfortunately, we were unable to conduct freshwater mussel assessments in 2023 as the PWA did not receive funding for it.  

Brook floater  

We also monitor flora through our Phragmites Project which involves assessing invasive plant species, specifically Phragmites australis subsp. australis. This invasive plant can spread and grow rapidly into dense, tall thickets, outcompete native species for light, water, and nutrients, and therefore, decrease biodiversity. Since 2020, we began assessments to identify and map infestations of invasive Phragmites. Six assessment sites were completed between 2022-2023, with an estimated area of about 1.6 square kilometers covered. During these assessments, 199 patches of invasive phragmites were found. The PWA partnered with InvasiveNB for a removal trail of phragmites in August with an attempted removal of 240 square meters (about the area of a tennis court) of phragmites. Although we (usually) do not actively remove phragmites, our assessments can help us and other organizations like InvasiveNB to develop future mitigation and management strategies to prevent their spread.  

Invasive phragmites  

We have also introduced projects to improve habitat quality through our Broken Brooks project which restores stream connectivity for migrating fish species. We want to ensure that fish movement is not inhibited at crossing sites during their migration because it is important for fish to reach their natal streams to spawn/reproduce. We conduct crossing/culvert and habitat assessments to determine the quality of the crossing area and if it is passible for fish species. In 2023 we completed 74 crossing assessments and have completed a total of 1003 assessments since 2014, with 443 (44%) consisting of culvert crossings. Of the 443 culvert assessments, we identified 160 (34%) to be passible, 99 (22%) having a partial barrier, and 184 (42%) having a full barrier. We have worked on remediation strategies such as rock weirs, installation of outflow chutes, bank stabilization, debris removal, and problematic in-stream structure removal to improve the flow of water through culverts to make them passible and restore connectivity.  

Culvert assessment site  

Our Water Guardian project mitigates flooding and prevents runoff pollution from reaching the watershed. Stormwater runoff occurs when the soil has reached its saturation capacity, or when surfaces in urban areas such as roads are impermeable, so water will drain into the nearest streams or water bodies and carry pollutants it encounters on the way. To prevent pollutants from flowing into the Petitcodiac watershed, gardens made up of different layers of sediment (sand on the bottom, followed by compost, then covered with topsoil) that capture the water and allow it to filter downwards are built throughout the watershed. These rain gardens support wet-tolerant native plant species that provide habitats for important native pollinators which contributes to habitat connectivity. Since 2018, the PWA has constructed a total of 19 rain gardens where flooding is common in the Petitcodiac Watershed area. In 2023, 2 rain gardens were built and 2 more were started but are under construction.  

Established rain garden built by PWA  

The Waste Warriors project aims to quantify, collect, and reduce the presence of waste to help clean our environment and prevent it from dispersing or leaching into the watershed. We have collaborated with several partners to organize clean-ups and community events and encourage everyone to join so we can make a difference and preserve a healthy watershed. We also encourage people to inform us if an area is cluttered with garbage so we can organize events to clean it up! In 2023, the PWA participated in or organized 5 clean-up events. The first event was led by a community member and the PWA provided gear. The PWA supported a second event by distributing garbage bags. The third and fourth events were organized and led by the PWA, and for the fifth event the PWA joined to support the clean-up and provided gear again. These clean-up events resulted in 138 volunteer participants and the removal of 450kg of garbage from the environment!  

Waste Warrior clean-up event  

The PWA has expanded significantly over the last year. We not only rebranded and relaunched our website, but we also moved offices facilitating new and improved lab techniques and equipment. This has allowed us to expand our laboratory capabilities and enabled us to assist other groups with similar regional work. Over the coming years, the PWA will continue to improve as we recently introduced new team members to help expand our organization even further!  

PWA’s cozy office lounge  

We are excited to leave our footprint in our new space. We have recently installed a rain garden on our premises to help improve water infiltration under our office’s drain spouts which tend to create pools of water. The PWA encourages the community to come by and visit our office and check out our rain garden too!  

Rain garden outside the PWA office

To enter our giveaway, come give our office a visit. Take a picture of our rain garden, post it, tag us, and use #25watershedmoments