Water Quality Monitoring of Regional Rivers
PROJECT BACKGROUND, GOALS AND PARTNERSHIPS
Throughout the Northeast Avalon region, there are many rivers / streams that make up the various watersheds. During the 2014-2015 project year, Northeast Avalon ACAP (NAACAP) began a three year water quality monitoring project. NAACAP conducted water sampling at numerous locations during past projects, but no continuous water quality monitoring was conducted. The provincial Water Resources Management Division (WRMD) has some real time water quality monitoring stations (at Learys Brook, Waterford River, and Outer Cove Brook) and also quarterly sampled sites throughout the region. With this project, we wanted to initiate regular water quality monitoring to fill in some of the monitoring gaps.
Through a partnership with Saint Mary’s University’s CURA H2O program, we received a multi- parameter water quality sonde (ie: probe) and other miscellaneous field supplies. CURA H2O also has online training modules, geared at improving the quality of community collected data by ensuring that everyone has the same basic level of training, and an online database where data is stored and sample locations mapped. Through this partnership, we hope to act as a hub, sharing the equipment and providing training for others who would like to conduct water quality monitoring and produce comparable data.
During year 1, we had three partners who sampled a total of 17 sites:
-Students from MUN’s Master of Applied Science in Environmental Systems Engineering and Management (MESEM) program – conducted sampling in Long Pond, Quidi Vidi Lake and on Nagle’s Hill Brook
-The Kelligrews Ecological Enhancement Program (KEEP) – conducted sampling in the Kelligrews River and the Lower Gully River
-The Fluvarium (The Quidi Vidi/ Rennie’s River Development Foundation) – conducted sampling in Long Pond
With the assistance of interns from the Marine Institute’s Advanced Diploma in Water Quality and MUN’s Memorial Undergraduate Career Experience Program (MUCEP), NAACAP sampled 67 sites throughout the Northeast Avalon. Some of these site locations were altered due to access or potential safety concerns, leaving 58 sample sites. The region was divided into 5 driving routes, with sampling occurring weekly, meaning that all sites were visited on a 5 week schedule. Of the 58 sample sites, 44 were visited the maximum four times throughout the field season, while the others had less visits for varying reasons, including construction at the sites. All of the sample sites can be viewed on a map:
Water quality parameters collected were those that the water quality sonde (probe) measures in-situ: water temperature, pH, dissolved oxygen (mg/L and % Saturation), specific conductivity, salinity, total dissolved solids (TDS). Nitrate and phosphate data was also collected using LaMott Testabs. However, as this method gave a range only, it was found that there was not much change in ranges among sites and the given ranges were too large for our purposes. The Testab data may be used later to help prioritize areas for lab testing, but was not very useful for analysis.
Additionally, NAACAP conducted Canadian Aquatic Biomonitoring Network (CABIN) sampling on the Waterford River with the assistance of the Water Resources Management Division of the Department of Environment and Conservation. CABIN is an aquatic biomonitoring program, which uses benthic macroinvertebrates along with traditional chemical and physical monitoring parameters to assess water quality. More information about CABIN can be found at http://www.ec.gc.ca/rcba-cabin/ and a video outlining CABIN sampling procedures can be viewed at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lWRTAxcTWXE.
Water Quality Monitoring:
Collected water quality parameters were compared to CCME (Canadian Council of Ministers of the Environment) Water Quality Guidelines for the Protection of Aquatic Life or to ranges considered typical for freshwater.
|Water Quality Parameter||Guideline Used|
|Dissolved Oxygen||no lower than 6.0 mg/L for early life stages or 5.5 mg/L for other life stages (CCME, 1999)|
|Specific Conductance||50-1500 µS/cm (Province of British Columbia, 1998)|
|Total Dissolved Solids (TDS)||0-1000 mg/L (Province of British Columbia, 1998)|
|Salinity||<1 ppt (Bergman, 2001)|
|pH||6.5-9 (CCME, 2006)|
Using these guidelines, a water quality index (WQI) was applied to the data to give the water quality a ranking using an index calculator developed by the provincial Water Resources Management Division. This WQI score is based on three main factors:
-Scope- the number of parameters that do not meet guidelines
-Frequency – how often the guidelines are not met
-Amplitude- the amount by which the guideline was not met
For more information on water quality index, visit http://www.env.gov.nl.ca/env/waterres/quality/background/indices.html
The below table shows the water quality index (WQI) scores and associated rankings for those sites (both sampled by NAACAP and partners) that had at least 4 sample visits during the project year (47 sites). It should be noted that WQI scores are meant to simplify complex water quality data, thus more in-depth analysis may be required to determine trends, etc. Also, as the sample size included in each score is small and the index is based on only five water quality parameters, the scores should be regarded with caution. We hope to improve upon this reporting tool during the next year.
The majority of the sample sites (80.9%) were ranked as good, with some (14.9%) ranked as fair, and some (2.1%) as excellent. Only one site (2.1%) in the table ranked as poor, the Seal Cove River (SCR01). This site is a good example of some of the limitations of the WQI, and the need to assess all water quality data in the context of the location. It was ranked poor in relation to freshwater guidelines, but is actually located at the mouth of the Seal Cove River where it becomes Seal Cove Pond, which was previously determined to have salt water influence and have characteristics of brackish water, which caused it to fail in the WQI calculator for total dissolved solids (TDS), salinity and specific conductance. Also, some sites were found to fail the guideline for specific conductance but were actually found to be lower than the expected range. It is not certain that lower conductivity actually is associated with poor water quality. As such, the lower end of the range will likely be removed in the future when applying the WQI. Another parameter that has a range for values for the guideline is pH. While the guideline has been determined by the CCME as ideal for the protection of aquatic life, it is common for Newfoundland water to have low pH, a characteristic related to the geology of some areas. As such, many of the sites sampled had pH values that were lower than the CCME guideline. Further work is needed to determine what pH is typical of water throughout the Northeast Avalon.
|River||Site||CCME WQI||WQI Category||Total Test||Number of Failed Test||Number of Passed Test||Number of Site Visits|
|Bremigan’s Pond Tributary||BPT01||88.1||GOOD||20||1||19||4|
|Bear Cove River||BRCR01||83.1||GOOD||19||4||15||4|
|Horse Cove Brook||HCB01||87.1||GOOD||20||2||18||4|
|Island Pond Brook||IPB01||83.6||GOOD||20||4||16||4|
|Jones Pond Tributary||JPT01||83.7||GOOD||20||4||16||4|
|Kitty Gauls Brook||KGB01||88.1||GOOD||20||1||19||4|
|Long Pond||MESEM 1401||88.4||GOOD||79||1||78||16|
|Nagels Brook||MESEM 1402||84||GOOD||79||15||64||16|
|Quidi Vidi Lake||MESEM 1403||78.1||FAIR||80||1||79||16|
|Maggotty Cove River||MGCR01||86.9||GOOD||19||2||17||4|
|Murray’s Pond River||MPR01||85.6||GOOD||20||3||17||4|
|North Arm River||NAR01||88.1||GOOD||20||1||19||4|
|North Pond Brook||NPB01||83.6||GOOD||20||4||16||4|
|Oxen Pond Tributary||OPT01||86.9||GOOD||19||2||17||4|
|Pouch Cove Brook||PCB01||85.2||GOOD||19||3||16||4|
|Petty Harbour River||PHR01||73.9||FAIR||19||4||15||4|
|Robin’s Pond Tributary||RPT01||83.6||GOOD||20||4||16||4|
|Shoe Cove Brook||SCB01||83.2||GOOD||19||4||15||4|
|Seal Cove River||SCR01||32.2||POOR*||20||6||14||4|
|Stone Ducky Brook||SDB01||86.9||GOOD||19||2||17||4|
|Stick Pond Brook||SPB01||88.1||GOOD||19||1||18||4|
|Tom Waldrons Pond Tributary||TWPT01||65.1||FAIR**||19||8||11||4|
|Whiteway Pond Tributary||WWPT01||83.6||GOOD||20||4||16||4|
|Yellow Marsh Stream||YMS01||86.9||GOOD||19||2||17||4|
*Previously determined to be brackish water (NAACAP’s barachois pond study of 2012). Categorized as poor because of failures in salinity, conductivity and TDS which are expected to be higher in environments with salt water influence
**These sites were determined to exceed guidelines for specific conductance in more than 50% of samples, but the guideline was not met because the value was below 50µS/cm. Although outside of the suggested range, it is not felt that lower conductivity is necessarily detrimental to aquatic life.
The below map shows the location of the CABIN sample site (WFD01) on the Waterford River, which was sampled on October 8, 2014. The map also shows the extent of the watershed that is located upstream of the sample location, the area that drains into and therefore influences the water quality found at the sample site.
The water quality data collected at WFD01 during CABIN sampling can be found in the below table. Comparing this data to the water quality guidelines found above, all of the guidelines typical for freshwater and the protection of aquatic life are met.
|Site||Time||Water Temp. (°C)||pH||Specific Conductance (µS/cm)||Dissolved Oxygen (mg/L)||Dissolved Oxygen (% Sat.)||Turbidity (NTU)||TDS (g/L)|
Benthic macroinvertebrates are used as indicators of water quality, as invertebrates have varying tolerance to pollution. For example, if only invertebrates known to be pollution tolerant are found, with none that are sensitive to pollution, it can be inferred that the water may polluted and those sensitive to pollution have cannot populate the area. Invertebrate data can also help indicate stream health by looking at the composition of the invertebrate population found at a sample site. For example, if there is a low richness (a low number of different taxa found), this may be an indication that some invertebrates are thriving and outcompeting others, or that only invertebrates with a particular pollution tolerance are able to survive in the site conditions. As changes in invertebrate populations vary over time and in response to multiple conditions, they are an effective measure of overall water quality and reflect cumulative impacts to water quality.
As this is the first year of CABIN sampling at this site, we cannot compare our data to data from the same location over time. Also, while the CABIN program is designed to compare test sites to reference sites determined to be in undisturbed, natural condition, the model for such comparison has not been developed for Newfoundland and Labrador. However, we can compare metrics from our sample site to data from reference sites throughout St. John’s.
As shown in the below table, WFD01had a richness of 18, meaning that there were 18 taxa of invertebrates found. This number is very close to the richness found at reference sites in headwaters sections of South Brook and the Virginia River. The percent Chironomidae (midge) metric is useful; because Chironomidae are pollution tolerant, therefore a large percentage of them may indicate that they thrive where other more pollution sensitive invertebrates could not. The 47.5% Chironomidae found at WFD01 is slightly higher than the percentages found at the reference sites, but not alarmingly higher. The percent EPT individuals metric is the percent of the sample that were of the orders Ephemoptera (mayflies), Plectoptera (stoneflies), and Trichoptera (caddisflies), which are known to be pollution sensitive. Site WFD01 had a lower percentage of EPT individuals than the South Brook headwaters reference site and the Virginia River headwaters reference site. Looking at the percent of the sample that consisted of the two most dominant taxa and five most dominant taxa, there some differences from the reference sites, but the reference sites also show more than half in two taxa and more than 85% in 5 taxa.
Overall, without a model to compare WFD01 to various reference sites for the region, it appears that WFD01 could be considered not divergent to slightly divergent from reference condition ,as there are similar results at the reference sites. This is promising, as this section of river is surrounded by urban environment, and has many potential sources of degradation upstream, related to drainage from increasing amounts of residential, commercial and industrial land uses. The sampled section of the river was vegetated on either side, providing a buffer from these potential sources of degradation. This stresses the importance of maintaining natural buffers between built areas and waterways.
|Metric||WFD01 (October 8, 2014)||Virginia River at Headwaters – NF02ZM0098 (October 30, 2008)||South Brook at Headwaters – NF02ZM0185 (October 28, 2008)|
|Richness (Total No. of Taxa)||18.0||16||13|
|% of 2 dominant taxa||62.0||55.4||63.8|
|% of 5 dominant taxa||85.2||87.3||91.8|
FUTURE PROJECT PLANS
Upon completion of year 1 of this project, we were successful in collecting data from numerous sites and engaging partners to assist with this process. As year 2 begins, we are interested in engaging more partners and volunteers to conduct regular water quality monitoring in local areas using the training provided by CURA H2O and shared equipment located at NAACAP’s office. The sites visited by NAACAP in year 1 will be reviewed by the project committee to determine if they represent the region sufficiently. Ideally, the number of sites monitored by NAACAP will decrease with an increase in partner and volunteer monitoring.
In future sampling the use of Testabs for nitrate and phosphate will be removed as it was not found to give precise measurements of these parameters. Ideally, lab testing of samples for nutrients would replace this aspect. Lab testing of metals would also be a good addition to the data collection. Further funding to do so will be explored in upcoming project years. There are also some improvements that can be made to the application of the WQI calculator, including possibly developing guidelines specific to brackish water, and reviewing the guidelines for freshwater so that they are determined to best represent not only freshwater, but freshwater in Newfoundland. For example, the removal of the lower variable in the range for specific conductance, and determination of pH ranges typical of Newfoundland waters could be possible changes. The increase in number of site visits over time and the addition of other water quality parameters would also benefit the use of the index.
CABIN sampling at site WFD01 is also planned for Fall 2015 and 2016. There can then be comparison of annual invertebrate data, along with comparison to reference condition, which will be enhanced when a model is released for Newfoundland.
ARE YOU INTERESTED IN GETTING INVOLVED?
If you are interested in further information about NAACAP’s water quality monitoring, or would like to assist with the collection of data, feel free to contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org or call us at 726-9673.