Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Environmental Studies (MES)


Geography & Environmental Studies


Faculty of Arts

First Advisor

Robert Sharpe

Advisor Role

Thesis Supervisor


The purpose of this study is to assess the strengths and weaknesses of the municipal official plans to protect provincially evaluated wetlands from activities causing non-point source pollution within the Grand River watershed. An integrated framework for policy analysis involving both an evaluative and normative approach assists in determining the value of wetland protection policies and recommends future actions to guide decision-making on development adjacent to wetlands. Specifically, the objectives include (a) to locate, identify and measure the total wetland area, class and number of wetlands in the Grand River watershed on an upper- and lower-tier municipal basis; (b) to evaluate the extent of adjacent areas contributing surface water contamination to the wetlands in the Grand River watershed on an upper- and lower- tier municipal basis and by individual municipalities, thus establishing the risk due to degradation from non-point source pollution; (c) to determine the pressures of development by examining the changes in population and dwelling density from 1986-1994; (d) to identify the strengths and weaknesses of municipal governments from the viewpoint of the staff to implement municipal policies on wetlands; (e) to review and assess municipal official plans for wetlands, natural areas or hazard land policies to determine whether the municipalities effectively protect wetlands; and (f) to provide insight, based on this research, to guide protection or rehabilitation of wetlands at risk from non-point source pollution. Mapping showed that 7.2 % of the watershed is covered by 220 named and evaluated wetlands. Seventy-one percent are provincially significant and distributed within three-quarters of the lower-tier municipalities, mainly towns townships. Large portions of these natural areas are shared by neighbouring municipalities. All municipalities within the watershed experienced a growth in population and an increase in dwelling density during the period of wetland policy implementation. The largest population and dwelling density increases occurred in cities and villages or their adjacent municipalities. Generally, official plans policies throughout the watershed needs some improvement. Regional municipalities had the most adequate, while villages tended to have the least effective policies, given the lack of wetlands in these municipalities. The Grand River Conservation Authority and the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources are considered to be the agencies with the expertise and strength to protect wetlands. Half of all respondents to the municipal staff survey do not have the resources to effectively protect wetlands due to inadequate finances and a lack of staff expertise in environmental issues. Disinterested landowners and a lack of understanding the value of wetlands are also impediments to wetland protection. Education and awareness programs for the public were considered beneficial. The thesis concludes with several recommendations which may assist the Province and municipalities to develop planning initiatives to effectively and efficiently protect the remaining wetlands in the Grand River watershed.

Convocation Year


Convocation Season