Lakes and watercourses
Ours to save
Why our lakes and rivers are dying (eutrophication)
Lakes, rivers and streams have been central to our lives
since the beginning of time. Initially, people settled near them because
they offered transportation and convenient access to water. Over time, the
search for peace, quiet, space and nature also attracted us to the water.
However, these same shorelines have been deforested, backfilled, turned into
lawns and even filled with rocks. Beaches have appeared where none existed
and wastewater has been poured into water everywhere. In some cases, these
actions have contributed to the gradual deterioration of water bodies,
shortening their life spans. This process is called eutrophication
The main results of eutrophication are an
excessive increase in
algae and a decrease in water quality, which can lead to health problems
and loss of property value. Eventually, people choose to leave the very
bodies of water that initially attracted them.
Special attention to shorelines
Maintaining and improving the water quality of a body of
water means paying special attention to its shores and littoral zone. In
order to do so, the erosion and degradation of shorelines must be prevented,
and the quality and biodiversity of the area must be preserved. The
government therefore prepared the
Protection Policy for Lakeshores, Riverbanks, Littoral Zones and Floodplains.
The Policy applies to all natural and artificial lakes and watercourses,
both large and small, regardless of whether their water flow is constant or
intermittent. Drainage ditches that serve 2 or more lots are also subject to
the Policy, which is applied via municipal regulations. However, since rules
alone are not enough, every action that protects, restores, cleans or
sanitizes a body of water is important and contributes to the common effort
to recover water.
What you need to know if you
must take action...
In general, the Policy prohibits structures, undertakings
and works that touch shorelines, littoral zones and floodplains.
The following (among others) are prohibited:
Definitions from the Protection Policy for Lakeshores,
Riverbanks, Littoral Zones and Floodplains
Littoral zone: the part of a lake or watercourse that
extends from the high-water mark to the centre of the body of water
Lakeshore or riverbank: a strip of land 10 to 15
metres wide bordering a lake or watercourse and extending inland from the
High-water mark: the line which marks the limit of
the littoral zone and the shoreline or riverbank, located at the point where
predominantly terrestrial plants succeed predominantly aquatic plants
However, it is permitted to:
install an access to the water (other than a vehicular route
or boat access ramp) that respects the following conditions:
where the slope is gradual, a 5-metre-wide window in the
vegetation is permitted;
where the slope is steep, a stairway on an angle from the
shoreline and a 5-metre-wide window in the vegetation are permitted;
build wharves, shelters or docks on pilings or made of
To improve the quality of watercourses, other actions can be
planting shrubs, trees or herbaceous plants. However, it is
better to let nature take over. Planting grass is prohibited.
leave a few dead trees, in order to provide shelter and food.
Cutting only sick or dangerous trees;
stabilizing degraded shores using vegetation, for example
willow fascines and gabions, in order to prevent erosion. Important! The
advice of a specialist is required if you wish to stabilize shorelines using
concrete or wood;
maintaining the shoreline or littoral zone in a natural
state, use no fertilizers or pesticides.
The importance of a healthy shoreline
The shoreline and littoral zone are essential to the
survival of a lake or watercourse and in order to maintain a balanced
1 Natural windbreak: Shoreline vegetation protects your home from wind damage.
2 Landscape value: Shoreline vegetation reflects the natural beauty of the
landscape and increases the value of your property.
3 Regulating water levels: By retaining and evaporating precipitations, shoreline vegetation reduces
the risk of flooding.
Sun protection: Shade provided by trees creates a screen that prevents the water from
becoming too warm, which limits the production of algae.
Preventing erosion: Vegetation stabilizes shorelines, reduces the sanding-up of spawning grounds
and avoids soil loss.
Biodiversity: Watercourses provide wildlife with food and shelter. They provide a precious
resource allowing us to observe wildlife and provide us with areas for
hunting and fishing.
Filters pollution: Vegetation retains a portion of the fertilizers, pesticides and sediments
carried by surface runoff, thereby extending the lifespan of watercourses.
Check before you act!
you would like to carry out work along the shoreline or in the littoral zone
of a lake or watercourse, you must first check with the municipality to find
out about the applicable rules and regulations, including the Wild-life
Conservation Act, managed by the Ministère des Ressources naturelles et de
la Faune. Make sure you have the necessary authorizations.
For information, contact the
Centre d’information of the Ministère.