Water quality testing at the SRRCD

Our water quality testing program at the Seine-Rat River Conservation District (SRRCD) provides information about how land use affects water quality in our district. Our staff go out each year to collect water samples along the Seine River, Rat River, Marsh River, and Joubert Creek. The samples are taken to Winnipeg where they are tested for bacteria and other parameters, like nitrogen and phosphorous.

Phosphorous is an important nutrient for plants, animals, and humans. Human activities, however, are adding excessive phosphorous to our freshwater systems. Too much phosphorous in our lakes can stimulate algae growth. Dead algae consumes much of the available dissolved oxygen in the water as it decomposes. Dissolved oxygen is needed for fish and other aquatic organisms to live.

2015 water quality results

Water quality testing results for 2015 show that there are high phosphorous levels in the Seine, Marsh, and Joubert watersheds. Phosphorous inputs in these areas following the spring snowmelt and heavy rainfall events are enough to elevate phosphorous concentrations above the provincial guideline of 0.5mg/L.

The good news is that much lower phosphorous levels in the Rat River may be reducing the overall load from the district into the Red River and Lake Winnipeg.

How does phosphorous get into our waterways?

There are many ways that phosphorous can enter our waterways. Land use is an important factor affecting phosphorus levels. The effects of land use on phosphorous levels in the SRRCD are noticeable when comparing phosphate levels in the Joubert Creek and the upper Rat River. The Joubert Creek has much higher phosphorous levels than the upper Rat River. This may be because there is more land along the Joubert Creek that is being used for intensive agriculture.

Surface water runoff containing nutrient-rich livestock manure is likely contributing to phosphorous loading in the SRRCD, as well as leaching from silage storage. It is often difficult to keep the hay dry during wet years and water from silage runoff is also acidic and high in phosphorous. Urban areas also contribute to phosphorous loading. It is estimated that phosphorous is sourced equally between urban areas, agriculture, and the natural environment. This means that it important that we work together to reduce phosphorous inputs into our waterways.

The water quality test results show that most of the phosphorous in our district is dissolved in the water. The greatest phosphorous loss occurring in the SRRCD is likely caused by melting snow and heavy rain. Pooling water that is unable to percolate the frozen, compacted or saturated soil quickly drains into nearby waterways, carrying nutrient-rich water downstream. We used to think that the spring melt contributes to most of our phosphorous loss. The water quality results we are now seeing are showing that short duration, high intensity rainfall events are likely to be just as harmful to our waterways.

The increasing frequency and severity of high water events in recent years is causing many of us to rethink the way we manage surface water. These short duration, high intensity rainfall events are washing out roads, threatening homes, eroding shorelines, and polluting our waterways with harmful contaminants. Our municipal and provincial infrastructure is designed for climatic conditions that no longer exist. The Red River Basin has experienced one in 100 year flooding events ten times in the past 25 years. This means that we must work towards mitigating the effects of increasing severe weather events.

The SRRCD works with sustainably-minded people to implement programs that utilize an integrated, watershed-based approach to managing surface water for riparian areas, aquatic ecosystems, water quality, recreational areas, and flood protection.

Bob Sandford to speak at organizational meeting

To support our stakeholders in building community resilience, we are pleased to announce Bob Sandford as this year’s keynote speaker at our annual organizational meeting on November 16, 2015.

Bob Sandford is a leading water scientist at the United Nations University Institute for Water, Environment and Health. His work focuses on translating scientific research outcomes into language decisions-makers can use to develop meaningful public policy relating to local water issues.

Bob will be speaking to the implications of the changing water cycle and what we can do to build stronger, more resilient communities. Colleen Sklar, Executive Director of Lake Friendly, will be joining Bob in support of this important message.

Have you heard of CoCoRaHS?

The SRRCD is also pleased to partner with Community Collaborative Rain, Hail & Snow Network (CoCoRaHS) to measure and map precipitation data in our district.

CoCoRaHS is a not-for-profit organization made up of volunteer observers who collect and report precipitation measurements using a CoCoRaHS rain gauge. You can visit the CoCoRaHS website at http://www.cocorahs.org  for more information. The data that volunteer observers collect helps us to understand how isolated, short duration, and high-intensity rainfall events affect our district.

Please contact our office if you are interested in participating in this important program as a voluntary observer.