Water Quality Monitoring Networks
The water quantity baseline network is a long-term source of data. Specific quantity and quality studies obtain information to address particular issues or community concerns. A brief description of the primary projects is included below.
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The Water Resources Division is responsible for monitoring transboundary waters to ensure that upstream provinces and territories are not causing downstream effects in the Northwest Territories. Monitoring currently takes place on the Slave, Hay, Liard and Peel rivers. The comprehensive program has developed a solid baseline for the aquatic ecosystem of these rivers against which future changes can be measured.
The program allows for the detection/early warning of negative environmental trends in waters downstream of industrial developments and is responsive to unexpected upstream events—for example, the October 2013 spill at the Obed Coal Mine near Hinton, Alberta.
Status and trend reports are currently available for the Slave and Hay rivers, and are currently being developed for the Peel and Liard rivers. Open water seasonal sampling at these four transboundary sites continues in 2014. Partners in the network include Environment Canada and First Nations (Smith Landing, K’atl’odeeche, Gwich'in, Liard, Northern Alberta).
The Coppermine and Lockhart River Basins are some of the most important and pristine river systems in the central arctic. Cumulative effects of mining and other development within these two basins require ongoing monitoring and assessment of water quantity and quality information. Seasonal monitoring continues to be carried out in the upper reaches of the Coppermine and Lockhart basins (since 2000). Information is currently being analyzed for long-term trends related to physical parameters, major ions, nutrients and total metals.
Water quality information at three rivers located near Yellowknife (Marian, Yellowknife, and Cameron rivers) is collected and assessed as a matter of local community interest for source water protection, recreation, and overall aquatic health. Information from this program supports numerous small basin research programs and national water quality indices, such as the Environment Canada Canadian Environmental Sustainability Indicators initiative (CESI). These three rivers are monitored monthly (since 1999) and results, along with historic values are currently being assessed for seasonal and long term trends. Partners include Environment and Climate Change Canada and various researchers.
The Water Resources Division measures the volume of snow at the end of the season (April) at a network of survey sites. Values are converted to a snow-water equivalent (SWE), to enable annual data to be compared from one year to the next. An annual spring bulletin is distributed to various government agencies and industry to inform them of anticipated freshet conditions. Historic snow quantity data can be viewed and downloaded online, and trend analysis is currently being completed. Partners include GNWT Lands (District Offices) and the NWT Power Corporation.
This database provides a consistent approach to environmental data management across the Northwest Territories. LodeStar is a multi-site, multi-user intranet database application that manages environmental water, soil, sediment, and air data from site investigations, remediation projects, and long-term monitoring programs. Once fully operational, the plan is to make environmental data publically available on the internet though a GIS interface or though linkages with other public databases. LodeStar will greatly facilitate the safe storage and availability of large volumes of environmental data in the NWT. The main partner in this project is Indigenous and Northern Affairs Canada (INAC).
Water Resources has been conducting an evaporation program at various mine sites in the Northwest Territories and Nunavut since 1993. The purpose of the study is to improve water management in mine tailings disposal areas. Specific weather parameters are measured and logged with automatic stations located near the mine tailings ponds. These data are used to calculate daily and seasonal evaporation rates, which are then used in water balance calculations. There is currently one remaining evaporation station operating in NWT, at the Giant Mine site. Historic evaporation data are also available for the Nanisivik, Cullaton Lake, Colomac, Lupin, Salmita, Silver Bear and Discovery mine sites.