West Fraser donates $10,000 to project

LSWC’s Executive Director Meghan Payne holds a $10,000. sponsorship check from West Fraser.

LSWC water quality program needs money

Meghan Payne
LSWC Staff
The Lesser Slave Watershed Council (LSWC) is one of Alberta’s eleven Watershed Planning and Advisory Council’s (WPAC’s). The LSWC, established in 2007, has been working to raise awareness about watersheds, promote best management practices that lead to a healthy watershed, report on the health of the Lesser Slave watershed and engage watershed stakeholders in the development of an integrated watershed management plan that provides watershed management recommendations that when implemented lead to a sustainable Lesser Slave Lake.

Through the development of the watershed management plan it became evident that there is a poor record of lake and river water quality for our basin. There were only two data sets comprehensive enough to be used to determine a reference condition for the rivers in the watershed. Having a reference condition for water quality allows us to compare future water quality results and determine if we are moving towards our water quality objectives. A lack of quality information makes watershed planning with confidence difficult.

Environmental monitoring and reporting is the role of the Government of Alberta’s Environmental Monitoring and Science Division. However they currently lack the capacity to complete any on the ground monitoring in our watershed.

The Lesser Slave Watershed is the only major sub watershed in Alberta without a long term river network station that continually collects information on flow, dissolved oxygen, pH, conductivity, nutrients and a host of other parameters which would provide a continual source of data on surface water quality.

The LSWC is starting a five year water quality monitoring program in April 2017 on the five major tributaries of Lesser Slave Lake: the South Heart River, the East and West Prairie Rivers, the Driftpile River and the Swan River.

The sample locations on each stream are at an upper, mid and lower site to capture changes in water quality as land use changes from the upper watersheds to the lake. The sites have been chosen based on their historical significance and existing data records, the ease of access by vehicle and safety for LSWC staff or volunteers to access. The same locations will be used for the entirety of the program to maintain consistency.

Annual sampling will begin at the end of April or early May depending on when the ice breaks up. The goal is to complete 10 sampling events each year between April and November at each of the 15 sites.

The LSWC has equipment for 2 field crews to measure temperature, pH, conductivity, and dissolved oxygen. These parameters will be measured in the field each time samples are collected. ALS Laboratories in Edmonton, AB will provide analytical services for the following parameters:

· Total and dissolved Phosphorus
· Total Nitrogen
· Total Suspended Solids
· Fecal Coliform Bacteria

These parameters were chosen because nutrient loading, sediment transport and human health are major watershed concerns.

These will be measured consistently for the full 5 years. If additional funding can be secured through grants or sponsorship the LSWC can add additional parameters of concern to the program.

This project supports the implementation of the LSWC’s watershed management plan (currently in draft). Five years of monitoring will provide a data set that can show us trends in quality of water coming into Lesser Slave Lake. For example, we know spring run off contains high levels of sediment and nutrients that end up in the Lake and lead to more algal blooms and decreased water quality overall. But we don’t know how much Phosphorous or sediment because we do not have the data to calculate the value.

With a quality 5 year data set we can then use an integrated hydrologic model to estimate the actual volume of sediment and nutrient transport from these rivers into Lesser Slave Lake. This information will inform land and resource managers like the Province of Alberta, our municipalities, and a host of other stakeholders who have a role in watershed management.

This project will cost the LSWC $25,000 a year for a five year total of $125,000. The budget includes the field work, time for sample collection, courier, analytical and summary reports yearly. To support the program the LSWC is seeking sponsorship from local municipalities, oil and gas companies, the forest industry and tourism operators.

The LSWC does receive operational grants from the Government of Alberta but water quality monitoring work is not an eligible expense. Monitoring is important to the LSWC and our stakeholders and we are confident that the folks in our watershed will also see the value in having this key information and continue to support the program.

The LSWC would like to thank our first major project sponsor West Fraser. They generously donated $10,000 to the LSWC on March 23, 2017.

Vermillion Resources, Summerland Energy, and the Town of High Prairie have also contributed $1,000 each to the project and we thank them for their generosity.

The LSWC is a registered Canadian charity so charitable tax receipts are issues for all sponsorships. All of our supporters are recognized on our website, on social media, on our annual report and on any project related materials published.

For more information about the project or becoming a sponsor please contact the LSWC’s Executive Director Meghan Payne at (780) 523 9800 or via email at meghanpayne@lswc.ca.

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