The Ecology of Ottawa

By guest blogger, Denise Deby,
Strathcona Park Denise Deby

Ottawa in summer has a lot going for it. I’m lucky to have been able to spend much of the last few weeks outside: playing with my kids in the back yard, scouting out wading pools and beaches (weather permitting), exploring Greenbelt trails, and walking through the neighbourhood, with occasional stops at outdoor patios or friends’ decks.

Still, it’s city living. A person can feel removed from nature, even in a city with as much green space, urban forest and proximity to natural areas and waterways as Ottawa.

That’s why I was struck by a website I came across recently, about “The Ecology of Ottawa” ( The site presents Ottawa within its natural ecosystem, examining the links among us, the built environment, and the air, water and land, plants and animals that surround us.

The site, which was set up by the non-profit organization Ecology Ottawa (, is an overview of where the resources we use — water, energy, food and consumer goods — come from, and what happens to them after we use them. The site doesn’t get into details of Ottawa’s biodiversity, but indicates where to get more information. It also highlights what we can do to sustain the systems on which we depend.

The message is a simple one, not even necessarily new, but “The Ecology of Ottawa” has prompted me to look at things differently. When I take the kids to a splash pad on a hot day, for example, I think about the river system and the purification plant through which that water has flowed, and the sewage system that will take the water to the treatment centre and on back to the river. I contemplate how I can minimize that “waste” water and whatever remains in it that I’ve added.

I’m still enjoying the forest paths and the outdoor cafés, but I am thinking a bit more about what’s beyond them, and how it’s all connected, and what I can do differently.

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