Grade 12 Student Studies Water Quality in the Don River


When Henry James recently came across an article about Green Infrastructure and water quality by the Foundation, it struck a chord. The grade 12 student at Crescent School in Toronto had recently conducted his own experiment looking at water quality in his community and believes green infrastructure is the solution.


Henry wanted to compare the water quality of the renaturalized Don River near the Evergreen Brickworks in Toronto, to the water at Lake Wannamaker in Eastern Ontario as well as to Mud Creek, which runs through the Moore Park Ravine into the Brickworks.

Henry’s research found that the water quality at the Brickworks was comparable to Lake Wannamaker, indicating a very successful restoration of the aquatic ecosystem in the Brickworks. Unfortunately, Henry observed high levels of pollution in the river flowing through Mud Creek.

“I tested the water quality of not only the ponds of the Brickworks, but also the Mud Creek stream that flows parallel to the Brickworks. I was surprised by the poor quality of water in this stream. The levels of nitrates in the river were 5-10 mg/L, which was significantly higher than any of the other nitrate concentrations that I observed (0 mg/L in all other nitrate tests)”, says Henry. In his research, Henry outlines that “the higher level of nitrates in the stream are due to the fact that it flows directly through a residential neighbourhood, so it is far more likely for the stream to receive pollution from runoffs than the ponds in the Brickworks, which are more isolated from the residential neighbourhoods.”


The Don River, along with Mud Creek, were recently included in the Greenbelt. This a critical first step towards protecting these significant water systems that we depend on for clean water and climate resiliency across the region, and the next step is to install more green infrastructure in our yards and communities.

Wide spread use of green infrastructure can cost-effectively help manage stormwater, lower the risk of floods, remove pollutants, and reduce sedimentation in Greenbelt waterways -- critical factors for improving water quality and building resilience to climate change. In the case of Mud Creek, Henry’s research shows removing pollutants is a top priority for improving the health of this aquatic ecosystem.

Henry suggests, “the use of bioswales and permeable pavement would help reduce pollution from entering Mud Creek significantly. These methods both involve the reduction and filtering of runoffs, which I believe is the primary reason for the higher pollution in Mud Creek. I also think individual households could create rain gardens, as this also aids the reduction of polluted runoffs into Mud Creek.” You can read about these and other green infrastructure options in our Green Infrastructure guide.









In the future, Henry hopes to study biology and biochemistry at university to give him the tools to help the environment. Read his abstract and water quality report here.



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