In Canada, environmental monitoring has been the responsibility of government for decades; however, funding cutbacks have left many agencies unable to provide comprehensive coverage. This has stimulated a rise in community-based water monitoring (CBWM) organizations. These organizations, operating at multiple scales, have tasked themselves with monitoring aquatic ecosystems. Additionally, they often engage in restoration projects stemming from their monitoring work. Despite the growing abundance of CBWM organizations, there is uncertainty as to whether their activities lead to aquatic ecosystem benefits. A thematic analysis of photographic and qualitative interview data was employed to examine restoration projects conducted by five CBWM organizations, and the projects’ potential impact on source waters. Findings show that while they are conducting activities that show physical change, which is indicative of ecosystem improvement, examples of measurable responses within aquatic ecosystems remain rare. Monitoring, restoration, and source water protection processes are challenged by a lack of funding, capacity, and monitoring procedures. Funding, particularly, restricted the extent to which monitoring could be conducted and influenced project scope and scale. This leads to a lack of capacity to conduct large-scale restoration and rigorous scientific monitoring. Consequently, our findings highlight the issues with detecting effects of small-scale projects at the watershed scale.
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