Water Monitoring - What's in it for you?

How do we know our water is safe – safe to drink, bathe in, play in? How can we be sure that we won’t get E Coli from our tap water or Beaver Fever from a dip in the river?

Water Monitoring provides us the necessary information which is then used to apply the appropriate strategies and treatments to ensure we are offered clean, safe water.

This blog gives you the lowdown on the latest from the 2016 Water Monitoring Workshop put on by the Government of Alberta - Agriculture & Forestry and also Environment & Parks.

We live in a country where, for the majority of communities, clean drinking water comes right out of our taps. We have access to infrastructure and technologies that allow water in our rivers, lakes, streams and wells to be filtered, treated and transported in order to be used for a variety of functions.

The workshop was held September 14-15 in Lethbridge, with about 150 people joining governemnt staff, such as irrigators, consultants, vendors and students from Lethbridge Community College. The two days were packed with speakers who presented on topics pertaining to the latest in water monitoring, data acquisition, technologies and instruments coupled with a tour of the Alberta Irrigation Technology Centre where full demonstrations gave workshop attendees a hands-on look at the technology, tools and equipment currently available.

 The Alberta Irrigation Technology Centre - where organizers gave a live tour of the Water Monitoring Technology and Equipment.

The Alberta Irrigation Technology Centre - where organizers gave a live tour of the Water Monitoring Technology and Equipment.

Rick Blackwood, (Assistant Deputy Minister, Strategic Division, Alberta Environment and Parks) was Keynote Speaker. He highlighted the focuses of the Minister of Environment and Parks, Shannon Phillips, including the Climate Leadership Plan’s goals to reduce methane emissions, phase-out coal-fired electricity and have 30% of Alberta’s energy coming from renewable resources by 2030.

According to the Assistant Deputy Minister’s keynote speech, the Government "wants as many resources as possible on monitoring work”. He also stated that “Everything that we were monitoring before, we are monitoring today”. The OWC is glad to hear it, because it underscores the importance of our Integrated Watershed Management Plan (IWMP) Goal 6"Identify water quality outcomes and assess factors impacting them for adaptive watershed management".

Water Quality is the next Action Plan goal to be targeted by the OWC.

Based on the Assistant Deputy Minister Blackwood’s statements, the OWC is optimistic about the 2017-18 monitoring program. Perhaps this will mean a reversal of the cuts to the monitoring program in 2016-17. The OWC strongly supports the GoA in its efforts to place a high priority on water quality monitoring in Alberta.

All speakers and topics at the Water Monitoring Workshop were informative and well presented. The focus of OWC’s future work with the development of a Water Quality Action Plan were greatly relatable to the topics presented by Ron McMullin, Executive Director, Alberta Irrigation Project’s Association (AIPA) and Janelle Villeneuve, Water Quality Specialist with Alberta Agriculture and Forestry.

Ron McMullin spoke on the topic of "The Importance of Water Monitoring in Alberta". When he was asked to present on this topic, he began his presentation with a humourous slide: “YES, it is important… Questions?”. Ron did of course go on to highlight the many uses of obtaining and analyzing data - including everything from flood and drought mitigation, storm water, run-off and irrigation return effects to headwaters protection, recreation and consumption.

In looking towards OWC’s Goal 6 of the IWMP, irrigation districts will be an important contributor to making the goal a success.

Janelle Villeneuve presented on her team’s research on: "Investigating the Impact of Irrigation Return Flows to the River Quality: Synoptic Surveys on the Oldman". Janelle was also a presenter at one of the stations on the Alberta Irrigation Technology Centre tour, demonstrating the water quality monitoring equipment her team used when gathering the data.

The Synoptic Survey data, to summarize, follows the flow of the same water from different points along the irrigation system from the reservoir to the main canals (primary sites), the lateral canals (secondary sites) and through the returns – either an infrastructure return or a watershed return - just before they meet up with the river. Here we are tracking the same "piece" of water as it flows. Following the path of the same waters provides a data set that tells us exactly what happens to the same water as it is passes through the irrigation system.

This work is very important in demonstrating advancements in the irrigation industry, and also in showing areas for improvement, to ensure the best quality of water is returned back to the river, where it travels downstream to be used again.

 Janelle Villeneuve, Water Quality Specialist, Alberta Agriculture and Forestry giving a presentation of the equipment her team used on the synoptic surveys of the Oldman and the Bow Rivers.

Janelle Villeneuve, Water Quality Specialist, Alberta Agriculture and Forestry giving a presentation of the equipment her team used on the synoptic surveys of the Oldman and the Bow Rivers.

Consider attending next year's event to gain insight into the latest technologies used and studies underway within the industry. As Ron McMullin stated, “Yes, water monitoring is important” - and with Deputy Minister Blackwood’s comments on the Alberta Government placing a high priority on water monitoring, the OWC is certain that the water quality monitoring program will continue to provide the necessary information to ensure we are safe - and provided with clean, clear drinking waterfor generations to come.

Thank-you to the Organizing Committee of the 2016 Water Monitoring Workshop for a great conference and tour.

Larin Guenther
Planning Manager, OWC