About the OHI
The OHI was founded in 2003, shortly after the release of Justice O’Conner’s reports on the Walkerton tragedy, with a goal of seeking to ensure that any expanded approach to watershed management, as was recommended, address not only safe drinking water but also the health of Ontario’s headwaters: our small streams, wetlands, and groundwater.
Early years were focused on public outreach and enhanced monitoring of small streams, while policy suggestions resulted in several board members being named to Source Water Protection Committees. As that work detracted from the OHI’s own program development, the Institute re-organized and in 2009 began to establish a more active public profile, delivering six funded projects over about 30 months that involved more than 40 partner organizations, a dozen public activities, and almost 500 people.
By 2011, the new direction was crystalized in a commitment to three main portfolios consisting of:
Research – Research forms the foundation of the OHI’s interests, and focuses on science, policy, and performance as they relate to watershed management and headwater health. OHMapping, as described below, grew out of a research initiative, and we are currently working on watershed report cards in general and on indicators of headwater health for inclusion in watershed reporting;
Education – Sharing our perspective while learning from others on the role that headwaters play in the ecological integrity of our watersheds and their biodiversity is an important part of our mission. Two of our current projects include:
- OHMapping – which enables people to view satellite photographs that depict conditions in local watersheds, with watercourses colour-coded by stream order. We call the resulting photos “meaningfully superficial” as, although simple, they are useful tool that demonstrates human impact upon the landscape; and,
- Headwater Hikes – which provides both background information on the variety of and the ecological roles played by headwater areas in Ontario as well as a series of documents for self-guided hikes from St Catharines to Lindsay; and,
Best Practices – Best Practices is currently focused for the most part on making submissions to government agencies through the Environmental Registry and in stakeholder consultations. Once our research on indicators of headwater health is complete, we anticipate launching a project to encourage a series of best management practices for key sectors impacting headwaters areas.
The OHI also makes regular submissions to agencies, is a member of several NGO alliances, and participates in agency-stakeholder round table discussions such as on the Oak Ridges Moraine and SO-SMART, the Southern Ontario Stream Monitoring and Research Team.
Overall, our efforts since 2011 have positioned the Institute as the leading not-for profit organization in Ontario working in the areas of both headwater protection and Ontario’s framework approach to watershed management.
The current board of the OHI consists of: Janet Klees, Secretary; Nick Morley, Treasurer; and directors at large Nancy Penny and Rebecca Ma. As the position of President is currently vacant, inquiries should be directed to Executive Director Andrew McCammon via andrew at ontarioheadwaters dot ca.