Column: Shuswap watershed study identifies nutrient sources needing mitigation

Director’s Notes by Area C director Paul Demenok

As we complete the first five-year plan for the Shuswap Watershed Council (SWC), it’s now appropriate to review achievements.

The goals of the SWC are to maintain and enhance water quality, advocate for practices to help prevent water quality degradation, co-ordinate water quality monitoring, inform residents and visitors about our water quality and promote safe boating and water-based recreation.

The SWC includes a steering committee comprised of 17 representatives from the Columbia Shuswap Regional District, Sicamous, Salmon Arm, Chase, Kamloops, the Secwepemc Nation, Regional District of North Okanagan, the Ministries of Environment and Agriculture, and four community representatives guided by a terms of reference that define our purpose, role, membership, decision-making and administration. Two technical committees support the SWC including the Water Quality Monitoring Group and the Water Protection Advisory Committee. These groups meet several times a year to share information, plan and co-ordinate efforts so that duplication is avoided. Annually, more than 500 samples are collected by 17 different organizations, with the SWC playing a unique role as coordinator.

Other monitoring efforts include completion of attainment monitoring on the Salmon River and a special study on nonylphenols. Nonylphenols are compounds of emerging concern as they are toxic to aquatic life, are found in industrial and commercial products, and are not removed during waste water treatment.

Fortunately, the study found levels of nonylphenols in Shuswap Lake were undetectable.

Results of water monitoring studies are reported annually by the SWC and indicate that water quality in our watershed is generally good.

The major water research initiative for the SWC is the three-year study of nutrients in our watershed conducted by University of British Columbia-Okanagan. This study reported that more than 63,000 kilograms of phosphorous from the Shuswap River, and more than 43,000 kg from the Salmon River, is deposited annually in Shuswap Lake. The study outlined areas contributing the greatest concentrations of phosphorous, thus enabling better targeting of mitigation efforts.

Read more: Money available to curtail nutrient pollution of Shuswap watershed

Read more: Salmon Arm seeks grant to study alternative water sources

A second phase of this study collected core samples from the bottom of Mara Lake in order to determine historic deposits of nutrients over many years.

The SWC has provided grants to support two nutrient mitigation projects including restoration of Alderson Creek and restoration of Gardom Lake wetland. A new granting program has been recently initiated by SWC to support further nutrient mitigation projects.

The SWC has conducted a number of safe boating and recreation campaigns, reaching more than 100,000 people with messaging about lifejackets, sober boating, cold water awareness, drowning prevention and boating preparedness.

In 2018, SWC partnered with the Columbia Shuswap Invasive Species Society to conduct “Clean-Drain-Dry” programs to prevent spread of zebra and quagga mussels. We advocated for additional provincial and federal government support to combat invasive species and recently partnered with the Okanagan Basin Water Board in this regard.

Finally, an interim program review of the SWC was conducted in 2018, and the key review committee recommendation was to stay the course and continue our efforts to support good water quality in our watershed. All these achievements and more occurred with expenses remaining consistently under budget.

In March, the SWC steering committee will review and approve our plans for the next five years. I will be bringing these new plans forward to the community for review and input prior to implementation. Given the crucial importance of good water quality for our health, recreation and tourism, I think we’re fortunate to have the SWC acting as a monitor, researcher and source of scientific information in support of our watershed.

Paul Demenok is the Area C Director for the Columbia Shuswap Regional District.

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