Beaver: pest or protector of water resources

Submitted by
Lesser Slave Watershed Council

Water! We can’t live without it!

As the reality of a changing climate becomes ever more apparent, we will need to catch and store water more effectively.

Have we overlooked a natural ally in our efforts to conserve and manage water? Probably! Consider our Canadian icon, the beaver!

For more than 10,000 years, beavers have been building dams and storing water across the landscape.

The cumulative effect of their ponds on water storage, both above and below ground, is enormous.

In simple terms, more beaver on the landscape means more water supply. University of Alberta biologist, researcher and author of the Beaver Manifesto, Glynnis Hood, found by scanning historical records of beaver populations and climate data that ponds with active beaver lodges had nine times more water during droughts than ponds without dams.

In addition to affecting water quantity, beaver ponds contribute to an impressive list of valuable goods and services for humans.

Ponds trap and store tons of sediment which improves water quality downstream for people and livestock alike.

Lastly, their ponds create diverse, productive and unique habitats for creatures great and small.

Beaver dams and ponds check the velocity of streams and dissipate water energy, creating speed bumps for streams.

This decreases the risk [and cost] of major flooding and slows erosion.

There is a diverse mosaic of vegetation, particularly willows, in these areas, which protect and stabilize stream banks.

Beaver ponds store surface water and recharge ground water. This increases water supply and releases water more steadily throughout the year, especially vital during droughts.

Much of the stream water captured by beaver ponds is stored underground in shallow aquifers and may re-enter the channel downstream.

This keeps water temperatures cooler in summer, benefiting sport fish.

Life is all about water. It is a substance more precious than gold and likely more scarce as we move into a climatically uncertain future.

With their ponds serving as natural water reservoirs, beaver can help us but only if we accommodate their activity and find a balance between the work of this sometimes pesky, buck-toothed rodent and our land-use, to sustain both on the land.

The Lesser Slave Watershed Council, Peace Country Beef and Forage Association, and Cows and Fish invite you to come learn more about living with beavers.

They are co-hosting a workshop on Oct. 12, 2016 at the High Prairie Agriplex from 10 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. This event is free to attend and lunch and refreshments will be provided as well as lots of great take-home resources about beavers, riparian areas, the watershed and more.

To register, please call Jen Allen with PCBFA at [780] 835-6799 or email her at

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