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Grand River Conservation Authority (GRCA) operates under the Conservation Authorities Act of Ontario. It is a corporate body, through which municipalities, landowners and other organizations work cooperatively to manage the water and other natural resources in the Grand Rivermarker watershed for everyone's benefit. Created in 1932, it is the oldest water management agency in Canada. The GRCA is one of 36 Conservation Authorities in Ontariomarker, Canadamarker and is a member of Conservation Ontario.


The Grand River provided transportation, water supply, and waterpower attracting settlement to the valley in the 1800s. The combined deforestation and urban settlement aggravated flood and drought conditions.

A main part of the Grand River's course flows through the Carolinian life zone, which contains a southern type of forest that is found only in this area of Canada. A wide variety of rare plants and animals are found here.

The water quality in the river started to deteriorate to the point where it was a major public health concern. To deal with these problems, a group of eight municipalities came together in 1932 to form the Grand River Conservation Commission. The Commission completed the Shand Dam, the first multi-purpose dam in Canada in 1942. It was built for flood control and the low flow augmentation to improve water quality during the dry summer months. The Commission also started planting trees to re-vegetate the landscape along the river.

Prior to World War II, renewable natural resources were exploited to encourage economic and industrial expansion and growth. As a result of public concern over the state of the environment in Ontariomarker, the Province passed the Conservation Authorities Act, 1946. The Act was based on three main principles:

  • Initiative for the establishment and support of a conservation authority must come from the local people (all watershed municipalities).
  • The best unit for dealing with renewable resource conservation is the watershed.
  • If initiative and support were shown locally, the Ontario government would provide technical advice and financial assistance in the form of grants.

The Grand River Conservation Authority is a corporate body established to enable municipalities to jointly undertake water and natural resource management on a watershed basis - for the benefit of all.

The broad goal of all conservation authorities in Ontario is specified in Section 20 of the Conservation Authorities Act:

'The objects of the Authority are to establish and undertake in the area over which it has jurisdiction, a program designed to further the conservation, restoration, development and management of natural resources other than gas, oil, coal and minerals." (RSO 1990, c. 27).

Under the terms of the Act, the Grand Valley Conservation Authority was formed in 1948. This allowed all watershed municipalities to work collaboratively to address a broad range of resource management issues.'

The practicality of two conservation organizations operating in the same watershed was closely scrutinized in the 1960s. To avoid potential conflict over roles and responsibilities and to eliminate duplication of programs the Grand River Conservation Authority was established in 1966 through the amalgamation of the Grand River Conservation Commission and the Grand Valley Conservation Authority.

Lakes, creeks and rivers

With a watershed area of 7000 square kilometers the Grand River flows from Dundalk to Lake Erie with numerous tributaries flowing into it:

Conservation Areas


  • Elora Cataract Trail
  • Cambridge-Paris Trail
  • Paris-Brandford Trail
  • Hamilton-Brantford Trail
  • Grand Valley
  • Waterler Bean Grand River
  • Town of Woolwich Trails
  • City of Waterloo Trails
  • City of Kitchener Trails
  • City of Cambridge Trails
  • Gordon Memorial Pathway, Brantford
  • Luther Marsh
  • Grand River Forest
  • Rockwood Conservation Area
  • Shand Dam
  • Conestogo Dam
  • Guelph Dam
  • Luther Dam
  • Woolwich Dam
  • Laurel Dam
  • Shade's Mills
  • Damascus Dam


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