Research helps us understand how the environment functions and the relationships between variables. Applied research advances the knowledge of northern water resources. It is also important to study the effects of changes, such as development and climate, on the environment in order to make sound resource management decisions.
The Water Resources Division conducts research on emerging water resource issues and contributes expertise to technical advisory committees.
The Mackenzie Delta region is characterized by diverse terrain and ecological conditions. Effective management of petroleum exploration and development in the region, including potential production facilities and pipeline construction, requires a broad but detailed understanding of regional environmental conditions and how this environment may respond to climate change or disturbance from human activity.
ESAT in the Mackenzie Delta region is a northern-based collaborative research program begun by the Water Resources Division. The program is designed to develop and conduct scientific research projects directly relevant to environmental management in the Mackenzie Delta region. It also assists southern-based researchers by providing scientific and field support for their involvement in ESAT. Program objectives are to:
- enhance the understanding of environmental conditions in the Mackenzie Delta region
- examine the effects of global climate change on the climate and environment in the study region
- develop a knowledge base that can be directly applied to environmental decision-making--planning, assessment and management of oil and gas related development
Baker Creek: Changing Hydrology in the Taiga Shield - Geochemical and Resource Management Implications
The principal goal of this project is to understand the cumulative impacts of changes in streamflow and geochemical regimes in the North Slave Taiga Shield. Specifically, this project will determine:
- changes in winter streamflow on the North Slave Taiga Shield
- drivers of these recent changes
- impacts of these changes on the environment
- implications to water quality
This information will be useful in a number of areas, for example in the management of contaminated sites, such as Giant Mine, and management and maintenance of NWT road infrastructure by the Department of Infrastructure.
Work is currently underway on a Canada-wide "Strategy for the Management of Municipal Wastewater Effluent", which includes the development of national performance standards. The Water Resources Division and Environment Canada, co-chairs of a Northern Research Working Group for Municipal Wastewater Effluent, are working with other members including regulatory boards to develop recommendations on appropriate national performance standards needed for northern Canada.
Given that standards feasible in the lower latitudes of Canada may not be achievable or appropriate for municipalities in the North, the Northern Research Working Group has done studies to identify factors that affect and can optimize municipal wastewater treatment. Reconnaissance wastewater effluent sampling was done in several communities during the summers between 2007 and 2011.
PARTNERS is a large, multi-disciplinary, multi-national project investigating the freshwater cycle of the Arctic. This research effort measures the biogeochemical characteristics of river waters as they flow from land into the Arctic Ocean. The overall objective is to use river water chemistry to study the origins and fates of continental runoff. The Water Resources Division is assisting American researchers with this international program by sampling water in the Mackenzie River above the delta.
In Canada, instrumental meteorological and hydrometric records are relatively recent, particularly in the more remote regions. For example, in the Mackenzie Delta, instrumental weather data only extend back to the 1930s, while most hydrometric data collection began during the 1970s. Record periods of this short length are a poor basis for the detection of environmental change and are unlikely to capture the annual and seasonal extremes that characterize climate and hydrology of a region.
Dendrochronology is the dating of past events through the study of tree rings. For example, climatic histories can be reconstructed with an annual resolution. Ongoing research by the Carleton University Paleoecological Laboratory, supported by the Water Resources Division in Yellowknife, has reconstructed up to 300 years of annual and seasonal stream flow for select sites from a network of 25 tree-ring chronologies. Results from paleo-environmental tree-ring studies can help to place current climatic and hydrologic fluctuations into a long-term context and can assist in environmental management and impact assessment decision-making.