“Until the end of time”: Interview with Riverkeeper founder, Karen Percy Lowe

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Two-time Olympic alpine skiing bronze medalist, Karen Percy Lowe, shares her inspirations for founding the North Saskatchewan Riverkeeper and contributing to a growing movement across Canada to protect swimmable, drinkable, fishable water for everyone.

 

Behind the scenes of the Swim Drink Fish movement, you will find water leaders across the country who love the water, spend time on and in the water, and who are working to protect local water bodies so that everyone in Canada can swim, drink, and fish forever. This growing network of leaders includes people from all walks of life, all with their own unique connections to water, and each leading the movement in their own ways.

Hundreds of volunteers are working to drive community-based monitoring on our rivers and lakes. Others are sharing their Watermark stories with friends and family, constantly reminding us that we all have a cherished connection to water in so many special ways. Many more are teaching their communities how to enjoy the water through pursuits like canoeing, fishing, swimming, rowing, sailing, surfing, and more. Connected to their local water bodies, these leaders are learning to protect them and and address the challenges that threaten our freedom to enjoy swimmable, drinkable, fishable, water.

Among these many leaders you will find two-time Olympic bronze-medalist, Karen Percy Lowe. As you can imagine, Karen is no stranger to hard work. “When I want something, I want something,” she says with a laugh. Her dedication as as an alpine skier representing Canada on the podium at the ‘88 Calgary Winter Olympics naturally found a new cause when she completed her career as an athlete.

Together with her husband, Kevin Lowe, Karen served on the board of Waterkeeper Alliance, a water movement based in the United States with chapters throughout North America and around the globe. Before you knew it, Karen and her close friend and co-founder, Britt Standen, were determined to “walk the talk” and launch a local organization that would protect the North Saskatchewan River.

“I wanted to do something right here in Edmonton that people would completely understand and connect to,” says Karen. Founded in 2009, North Saskatchewan Riverkeeper works to protect swimmable, drinkable, fishable rivers and lakes for everyone in the watershed. By working closely with Swim Drink Fish Canada and Waterkeeper initiatives across Canada, Karen’s work locally in Edmonton helps drive a national movement to connect communities to local water bodies. The partnership focuses on the development of innovative water stewardship platforms that engage everyday people and empower them with water stewardship tools that easily become a part of their everyday life … asking yourself where to plan your family beach outings this summer?

Check out the Swim Guide app to see a map of all the local beaches, discover what they have to offer, and check whether the water meets guidelines for swimming and recreation. Then, go and enjoy the weekend! If you do see pollution, report it using a convenient tool built right into the app. You might also check out www.WatermarkProject.ca, a multimedia story collecting initiative that works to celebrate and protect water bodies across Canada and around the world. The Swim Drink Fish community would love to hear a story about how water has shaped you in your life. These are the stories that drive efforts to protect clean water – we all have one and Karen is no exception.

“When I was a child, I would go camping with my parents. They loved to camping. And I loved to go with them,” she reflects. “They always picked a campsite on water.”

The impression that these experiences left on Karen is evident in the way that she and Kevin have raised their own children, spending summers at their cottage on Shuswap Lake. “That’s their favourite place in the world,” she says. It is memories like these that drive Karen’s passion and after 7 years of work on water, she’s beginning to see some real rewards.

“The North Saskatchewan is the vein of our city,” says Karen. “I love the fact that people are down there more often, using it more often, realizing how great this river is for our city … knowing that the water is sacred.”

Karen’s work continues and with her background as a competitive athlete, her sights remain set on the goal she has pursued from the beginning.

“My dream is for my children to swim in the water, to drink the water, to fish in the water, to enjoy the water, until the end of time.”

Job Posting: Program Coordinator, Community-based Water Monitoring

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Job Title: Edmonton Swim Guide Program Coordinator

 

Swim Drink Fish Canada and North Saskatchewan Riverkeeper are seeking a talented and motivated individual for the new, full-time position of Edmonton Swim Guide Program Coordinator. This community-based river monitoring program forms part of a national movement empowering millions of people to know and safeguard their waters using science, law, education, storytelling, and technology.

Building on the successes of a 2017 water monitoring pilot project, the Coordinator will implement a comprehensive, community-based, recreational water quality monitoring program along the North Saskatchewan River throughout the City of Edmonton. Reporting to the Manager of Water Literacy, the Coordinator will lead a variety of community and volunteer engagement activities designed to help build a strong network of water stewards equipped with the tools to protect a “swimmable, drinkable, fishable” North Saskatchewan River for everyone.

Primary Responsibilities:

  • Lead all logistics associated with the execution of a community-based water quality monitoring program in accordance with established program timelines and strategies:
    • Establishment and management of an in-house microbiological laboratory using an IDEXX Colilert system for testing E. coli levels in water
    • Purchase of water testing supplies and equipment as needed
    • Assessment of recreation locations on the North Saskatchewan River in Edmonton and selection of sites for sample collection
    • Development of water monitoring protocols and supporting materials
    • Planning and execution of field work and water sample collection including scheduling and transportation logistics
    • Trialling of monitoring systems and field logistics prior to direct volunteer engagement and publication of the first official results in early June.
    • Record-keeping, data-entry, and all paperwork associated with the operation of rigorous water quality monitoring activities
    • Analysis and publication of data and test results using the Swim Guide web platform (http://www.theSwimGuide.org)
    • Ongoing water quality data exchange with appropriate stakeholders
    • Publication, upkeep, and management of recreational water quality data and beach information as available from prairie region health authorities, using the Swim Guide platform
  • Planning and execution of community engagement activities including:
    • Pop-up booths to recruit volunteers, build awareness of recreation opportunities and water stewardship needs, and extend Swim Guide tools to the general public
    • Presentations to river user groups, river valley stakeholders, and community members
    • Two to three public beach events that celebrate the community’s connections with the North Saskatchewan River, build awareness of recreation opportunities and water stewardship needs, and extend Swim Guide tools directly to an active community of beach enthusiasts
    • Relationship building and follow up engagement with volunteers, supporters, and prospective water stewards, including ongoing documentation and communications
  • Development and dissemination of marketing materials and educational resources to support community and volunteer engagement activities. Materials will draw on findings from the 2017 monitoring pilot project and will require further research as necessary.
  • Recruitment, training, coordination, and retainment of volunteers for involvement in field work, water sample collection, pollution identification and reporting, lab work, and related water stewardship activities
  • Ongoing storytelling, multimedia, and communications that help build a narrative and movement of people who are connected to local water bodies and empowered to protect “swimmable, drinkable, fishable” water for everyone
    • Collection of multimedia stories from participants and community members as part of http://www.WatermarkProject.ca, another flagship initiative of Swim Drink Fish Canada
    • Development and dissemination of ongoing public communications via social media, the Swim Guide platform, print, the Riverkeeper website and blog, and email in alignment with broader communication and marketing strategies
    • Maintain an active and engaging social media presence that shares the ongoing activities of Edmonton Swim Guide Program with a growing online community
  • Execution of a post-season survey of volunteer experiences
  • Compilation and presentation of a final report and multimedia web resource that supports the dissemination of Edmonton Swim Guide Program findings, stories, and recommendations with the community and with key stakeholders

Qualifications:

Suitable candidates will hold a bachelor’s degree in a related field or comparable qualifications and/or work experience. Candidates will have a combination of technical skills and community engagement skills that meet the unique demands of community-based monitoring activities. Previous experience conducting field work or leading outdoor education initiatives is desirable. A passion for water stewardship, education, and storytelling together with interest and experience in a variety of water recreation activities is essential. In addition, candidates must exhibit:

  • Exceptional organizational and planning skills, meticulous attention to detail
  • Excellent oral and written communication skills including public speaking
  • Ability to analyse and communicate scientific and technical matters for various audiences
  • Ability to work independently and in a team
  • Excellent interpersonal and leadership skills

Candidates must also:

  • Be available to work flexible hours including frequent evenings and weekends
  • Hold a valid driver’s license
  • Demonstrate a sense of ease around moving water in various watercraft

Other assets:

  • Strong swimming skills
  • First Aid certification

Timeline:

In Phase 1, the Coordinator will receive appropriate training and orientation while developing marketing materials, educational resources, water quality monitoring protocols and systems, engagement and event schedules, and strategies associated with coordination of volunteers. The coordinator will initiate engagements with river user groups and recruitment of volunteers during this time while also trialling monitoring systems in the field prior to active volunteer involvement and publication of test results. In Phase 2, at the beginning of June, official water quality monitoring will begin together with volunteers and test results will be widely published through the Swim Guide platform. Volunteers will be engaged in monitoring activities from June through until late September. Public beach events will be executed during the heat of the summer amidst ongoing water monitoring and stewardship activities. During Phase 3, once monitoring activities have concluded, a final report will be compiled and disseminated and presentations will be made to community groups and stakeholders.

Work Environment and Location:

The Coordinator will be based in Swim Drink Fish Canada’s Edmonton office and will lead field work and community engagement activities throughout the city. The Coordinator will be required to work outdoors in the Edmonton River Valley under all weather conditions, enter the river using hip-waders, and travel in various watercraft if required.

Contract Terms:

Eight months, full-time position, start date to be confirmed. 37.5 hours/week, including frequent evening and weekend community engagement activities. Compensation is competitive for a program coordinator in the not-for-profit, environmental sector and will be based on the skills, experience, and qualifications of the successful candidate.

About Swim Drink Fish Canada and North Saskatchewan Riverkeeper:

Imagine a future where every person can safely touch the water that flows through their community, where that water is pure enough for drinking, and where waters are healthy and wild enough that fish and birds and plants thrive. Swimmable, drinkable, fishable water is necessary for the things people value most in life – family and friendship, culture, freedom, and opportunity. By blending science, law, education, and storytelling with technology, we empower millions of people to know and safeguard their waters. Swim Drink Fish Canada has been working for a swimmable, drinkable, fishable future since its launch in 2001 and works closely with North Saskatchewan Riverkeeper and other Waterkeeper charities across the country and around the world. Learn more at http://www.saskriverkeeper.caand http://www.swimdrinkfish.ca.

How to Apply:

Interested candidates are invited to submit a cover letter and resume for consideration. Cover letters are very important to us!

  • Applications must be submitted as a single PDF file and named as follows: Lastname_Firstname_ESGPcoordinator2018
  • Please email applications to Hans Asfeldt ( hans@swimdrinkfish.ca ) using subject heading Edmonton Swim Guide Program Coordinator.

Deadline:

Applications must be received no later than 11:59pm MST on Sunday, February 18, 2018. All applicants will be notified regarding the outcome of their applications.

This position is currently pending requested grant funds. We thank you for your interest.

Transformations: The North Saskatchewan River in Winter

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The deep cold of winter has arrived, and with it, an opportunity to experience the natural world in a whole new way. Yesterday, I bought a new neck warmer to cover my face and to replace one that was lost during warmer times. Then, I headed down to Victoria Park armed with my cross-country skis and a camera.

 

 

Fresh tracks in the river valley. Fresh, crisp air, too.

 

 

 

A first look at the river and the last remaining hints of an autumn now long forgotten.

 

 

 

Even with a blanket of snow and ice, the endless flow of the North Saskatchewan River continues.

 

 

 

When you embark on a North Saskatchewan River adventure, it is not hard to imagine oneself a grand explorer discovering the incredible expanses of the Edmonton River Valley. You may well discover a brand new world – one that fits in the palm of your hand.

 

 

 

Other discoveries may be out of this world altogether.

 

 

 

Wherever you go, you will always leave footprints.

 

 

 

Wherever you have been, the weather will always bring a new blanket of snow.

 

 

 

So dare to venture into the cold, you never know what you will find.

 

 

Photos: Hans Asfeldt

Snow-free Christmas may disappoint, less salt brine on roads and in river

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Photo: Brandi Redd

Most Edmontonians have by now accepted that a White Christmas may not come until next year. Although many of us will miss it, the flip side is that the City of Edmonton will use less of its new liquid salt spray on our roadways this holiday season.

Anything that goes on our roads, of course, also enters our river. Unfortunately, chlorides are well-documented toxins in aquatic environments and the practice has concerning implications for the health of the North Saskatchewan River and the fish that call it home.

We wrote about this earlier in the year following the approval of the current pilot program, which has now begun spraying 40% of Edmonton’s roadways as well as the downtown bike lanes. However road salting is managed, there is always a need to carefully assess the impact to freshwater environments and as the program is piloted, it is not clear that these impacts are being quantified. City Councillors requested at the spring meeting that administration ensure this monitoring take place and we are hopeful that these concerns will be taken seriously.

In order to determine the best road-clearing strategies moving forward, it is necessary to assess the impacts of the historical management practices and compare them to the impacts of the pilot project as well as alternatives – including the mandatory use of winter tires (an alternative that not only reduces the contamination of freshwater and avoids premature rust to vehicles and infrastructure, but also reduces collisions by 5% and deaths and serious injuries by 3%).

North Saskatchewan Riverkeeper would like to see a comprehensive assessment that not only considers the costs and effectiveness of these practices as was done in the City’s report earlier this year, but also the environmental impacts. In addition, to better support this assessment the remainder of the pilot program should include a coordinated approach to the direct measurement of chlorides entering the river through stormwater outfalls using the monitoring equipment already installed on drainage infrastructure.

The City indicated earlier this year that there will be opportunities for public and stakeholder engagement over the course of the winter and into next summer prior to a decision about the future of the Edmonton’s road-clearing strategies. Watch for information about these processes as well as a subsequent blog post in the new year that will go into greater depth about the impacts of road-salting on aquatic ecosystems.

In the meantime, enjoy a snow-free Christmas and know that if the fish are sharing in the festivities, it may have something to do with a breath of freshwater in between snowfalls and road-salting. Of course, it may also just be the time of year. Stay tuned and have a very Merry Christmas!

 

 

 

What to expect as City takes next step toward public beaches

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The hum at last week’s Urban Planning Committee meeting revealed a quiet excitement – the kind that secretly bubbles behind outward political composure. Sparking eyes all around the table hinted mischievously that mere committee formalities could do little to dissuade hearts already set on building public beaches along the North Saskatchewan River.

In the second order of business, administration tabled a report outlining the various regulatory permits and approvals required to build these beaches and the ensuing discussion inspired a subsequent request for a more complete feasibility study, due at the end of February.

Edmonton has a long history of exploring these kinds of projects, and on paper at least, the reports at hand are little more than a couple of small steps that will keep the discussion going into the new year. Indeed, the report presented last week was interpreted by some as a long list of obstacles that will inevitably sideline what is best left to the forces of nature.

The regulatory requirements certainly require a great deal of work and due diligence, but it should be noted that the list represents a very ordinary set of standard processes, almost all of which also apply to the ongoing construction of the Tawatinaw LRT bridge that formed Cloverdale Beach (also note thousands of projects ranging from hydroelectric dams to channel rerouting that have been approved despite much greater impacts to aquatic ecosystems). While building a beach is no public transit initiative, the notion of reshaping natural waterways to the benefit of swimming, paddling, or other recreational activities is nothing new under the sun.

Whitewater Kayaking on the Kananaskis River

Take for example, the whitewater racing course on the Kananaskis River in southern Alberta. The hydrology along the stretch below the Barrier Dam was dramatically engineered to created a variety of exciting whitewater features for kayaking, canoeing, rafting, and even surfing. More modest shoreline alterations were made on the Ottawa River to enhance public beaches and as others have highlighted, there is a natural public beach on the Milk River at Writing-on-Stone Provincial Park.

The Elbow River in Calgary offers a number of swimming opportunities, and right here on our very own North Saskatchewan River, we already enjoy what are effectively permanent manmade beaches immediately downstream of the Laurier Park and Gold Bar Park boat launches (not to mention a sandy shoreline at Terwillegar and the glorious and expansive natural sandbar near Fort Edmonton Park, among others).

Building a beach can be done and has been done. The obstacles are far from insurmountable. As Councillor Walters put it, the various provincial and federal laws that govern these developments represent some of the most important legislation in Canada. They are in place to ensure that we undertake development responsibly and in a way that balances multiple interests while mitigating adverse effects – environmental effects in particular.

With the above in mind, the sparkle in the eyes of committee members certainly reflects the excitement that so many of us share, but perhaps it also reflects a determination to do the work that’s needed, and to do it well.

It’s a safe bet that the feasibility study will come back at the end of February with an extensive list of considerations and challenges. But the regulatory requirements themselves should not be seen as obstacles. A public beach on the North Saskatchewan River is feasible, and perhaps more than one. It is simply up to us to find the right way about it. Indeed, it is an opportunity to come together and imagine a community that truly thrives with the ebbs and flows of the river, and in turn, to imagine a river that truly thrives in the heart of our city. The river, after all, has always been the heart of Edmonton and it is time we share the love.

 

Lessons of an Accidental Beach – 2017 Water Monitoring Report

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Beach report assesses water quality, Brett Kissel joins Lowes to support protection of North Saskatchewan River

Swim Drink Fish Canada and North Saskatchewan Riverkeeper release river monitoring report and raise funds for clean water with Brett Kissel and Karen & Kevin Lowe on Saturday November 4, 2017

 

November 3, 2017 – EDMONTON –  Swim Drink Fish Canada and North Saskatchewan Riverkeeper released a joint report today that assesses recreational water quality in the North Saskatchewan River, “Lessons of an Accidental Beach.”

The report highlights the potential for water-based recreation on and in the North Saskatchewan River as well as the findings of a 2017 river monitoring program. Water is generally clean when it enters the City of Edmonton, but more frequently fails to meet Health Canada water recreation guidelines as the river progresses through the city. This is partly due to untreated stormwater discharges that enter the river throughout the city of Edmonton.

Given the love that Edmontonians have for their river, and especially in light of the outpouring of enthusiasm excited by the Accidental Beach, Swim Drink Fish Ambassador and North Saskatchewan Riverkeeper President, Karen Percy Lowe, is teaming up with singer Brett Kissel to host a fundraiser to protect the North Saskatchewan River. “A Celebration for the Heart of the River” takes place Saturday, November 4, 2017.

Proceeds from the event will support the work that Swim Drink Fish Canada and North Saskatchewan Riverkeeper are doing to promote water literacy in Edmonton.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Click to download full report (PDF)

 

Quote(s)

“The North Saskatchewan River runs through the heart of Edmonton. It shapes our lives here. We’re hosting this fundraiser to bring together people who love their city. Together, we can make sure that everyone in Edmonton will be able to safely swim, drink, and fish in their river for many years to come.”

– Karen Percy Lowe, President of North Saskatchewan Riverkeeper organization and an ambassador for Swim Drink Fish Canada.

 

“We are honoured that Brett will perform for us on November 4. Because of leaders like Brett and Karen, more and more Edmontonians are connecting with their river. It’s inspiring to see the Swim Drink Fish community grow.”

– Mark Mattson, President of Swim Drink Fish Canada

 

“We’ve heard it loud and clear from Edmontonians – we love our river, whatever we need to do, whatever we need to invest, let’s keep it clean. The Beach at Cloverdale has reminded us of something that has been there in its own way all along. The river is the heart of our city and it is calling us home.”

– Hans Asfeldt, Water Literacy Manager for Swim Drink Fish Canada and North Saskatchewan Riverkeeper.

 

About Swim Drink Fish Canada & North Saskatchewan Riverkeeper

Swim Drink Fish Canada and North Saskatchewan Riverkeeper work to protect swimmable, drinkable, fishable water by blending science, law, education, and storytelling with technology. Together, these Canadian charities empower millions of people to know and safeguard their waters through the Edmonton Water Literacy Program, Swim Guide, Watermark Project, and Community Water Monitoring. These programs help to build a national movement of active, informed, and engaged individuals working to ensure their communities can swim, drink, and fish forever.

 

Contact(s)

To coordinate an interview with Mark Mattson or Hans Asfeldt, please visit our contact page.

Water quality results for Tuesday Sept 12th, last results for the season

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As the swimming season slows down, this year’s monitoring program comes to a close this week. See the latest results below and watch for our Summer 2017 report, which will outline the findings of this year’s program in greater detail.

The North Saskatchewan Riverkeeper’s recreational water monitoring program conducts tests along the river at key access points within the city of Edmonton and the final results of the season are now available in Swim Guide. The program tests for E. coli, which is the standard bacterial indicator for recreational water quality as established by Health Canada guidelines. A beach is posted red when levels exceed 200 CFU/100ml (colony forming units of E. coli per 100 ml of water) and green when levels are equal to or below 200 CFU/100ml. Please note that results only reflect water quality at the time of sampling and that E. coli levels are only one of many factors that affect the overall risk level of recreation activities in moving water.

 

Water Quality Update: Sampled Tuesday, September 12th, 2017

Laurier Park

Boat Launch

Test Result: 119 CFU/100ml

Capilano Park

Boat Launch

Test Result: 48 CFU/100ml

Cloverdale Beach

Sandbar

Test Result: 110 CFU/100ml

Fort Edmonton Footbridge

Sandbar

Test Result: 110 CFU/100ml

 

Conditions on day of sampling: Sunny and clear, breezy

Click here for last week’s results.

 

Read our earlier blog post outlining the details of the monitoring program and to learn more about how to determine the safety of recreation in the river. The results posted here only reflect the water quality at the time of sampling and are only one of many factors that affect the risks associated with recreation in a moving body of water.

Results are posted weekly on the Swim Guide and can be found on the Laurier, Capilano, Cloverdale, and Fort Edmonton pages on the website and app.

Water quality test results for Tuesday, Sept. 5th

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This Tuesday’s test results revealed a temporary, but significant spike in levels of E. coli in the North Saskatchewan River. The reason for the increased level of bacteria is not clear and tests will continue well into September along with the swimming season. Bacteria levels decreased on Wednesday, but given that water quality changes from day to day, it is not possible to predict E. coli levels ahead of the weekend when crowds will return to Cloverdale Beach and other recreation hotspots along the North Saskatchewan River.

The North Saskatchewan Riverkeeper’s recreational water monitoring program conducts tests along the river at key access points within the city of Edmonton and this week’s results are now available in Swim Guide. The program tests for E. coli, which is the standard bacterial indicator for recreational water quality as established by Health Canada guidelines. A beach is posted red when levels exceed 200 CFU/100ml (colony forming units of E. coli per 100 ml of water) and green when levels are equal to or below 200 CFU/100ml. Please note that results only reflect water quality at the time of sampling and that E. coli levels are only one of many factors that affect the overall risk level of recreation activities in moving water.

 

Water Quality Update: Sampled Tuesday, September 5th, 2017

Laurier Park

Boat Launch

Test Result: 359 CFU/100ml

Capilano Park

Boat Launch

Test Result: 422 CFU/100ml

Cloverdale Beach

Sandbar

Test Result: 746 CFU/100ml

 

Conditions on day of sampling: Sunny and clear

The Fort Edmonton Footbridge Sandbar was not tested this week. Click here for last week’s results.

 

Read our earlier blog post outlining the details of the monitoring program and to learn more about how to determine the safety of recreation in the river. The results posted here only reflect the water quality at the time of sampling and are only one of many factors that affect the risks associated with recreation in a moving body of water.

Results are posted weekly on the Swim Guide and can be found on the Laurier, Capilano, Cloverdale, and Fort Edmonton pages on the website and app.

 

The Bigger Picture

Water quality in the North Saskatchewan River fluctuates from day to day and depending on the location and conditions, it is not uncommon that recreational water quality standards are exceeded. Test results only reflect water quality at the time of sampling, and because water quality often changes quickly in moving water, it is difficult to predict E. coli levels on the days that follow or even later on the same day. For this reason, it is important to interpret individual test results within the context of water quality trends over time. A full report outlining the findings of the monitoring program will be published later this fall.

Between August 1st and September 8th, North Saskatchewan Riverkeeper published 18 test results at four locations including three for the popular Cloverdale Beach. Nine out of 18 results met the Health Canada standard for recreational water quality of 200 colony forming units of E. coli per 100ml of water (CFU/100ml). The other nine results exceeded the standard.

At Cloverdale Beach, test results to date are as follows:

August 22:
August 29:
September 5:

123 CFU/100ml (Met water quality standards)
238 CFU/100ml (Failed to meet water quality standards)
746 CFU/100ml (Failed to meet water quality standards)

Additional E. coli data based on daily samples taken from the Rossdale Water Treatment Plant intake show that E. coli levels just upstream of Cloverdale Beach were recorded at 460 CFU/100ml on September 5. This was the highest result in that period of time – between September 1 and September 6 the average (geometric mean) level of E. coli at the intake was 142 CFU/100ml, which is within federal guidelines.

In the preceding period for which data is available (August 24 – August 30), the results exceeded federal guidelines, with a geometric mean of 254 CFU/100ml. Water quality is generally better at the intake than at any location downstream of the plant and the numbers confirm that depending on the day, Cloverdale Beach may or may not be suitable for swimming.

Health Canada guidelines are designed to limit the contraction of waterborne illnesses to 1-2%, or 10-20 illnesses for every 1,000 swimmers. When a beach fails to meet these guidelines, the risk of waterborne illness increases.

 

Media

Download the press release.

 

Routine dam shutoff ahead of long weekend, expect enough water for beach-combing!

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On Wednesday, August 30th, the Bighorn Dam on the North Saskatchewan River was shutoff for approximately 24 hours to conduct a routine leakage test. The shutoff reduced river flow immediately beneath the dam to half a cubic metre per second, down from flows of 50 to 130 m³/s the previous day. The Bighorn Dam is located about 400 kilometres upstream of Edmonton.

With the river running at a mere trickle, standard operations involved crews walking through ankle deep water to salvage fish and return them to deeper waters further downstream. Calgary-based Transalta Corporation owns and operates the dam and conducts leakage tests each spring when reservoir levels are low and again each fall when levels are high.

Despite the routine nature of the operation, any paddlers or boaters on the upper reaches of the river last Wednesday were likely in for a disappointing surprise when the unannounced shutoff dropped water levels to a point that would potentially leave boaters stranded in the Rockies.

As the river meanders into the foothills, a number of tributaries contribute additional flow to the main stem and the effect of the shutoff becomes less dramatic. The Bighorn Dam controls approximately 20-25% of the North Saskatchewan Watershed’s source water, while the other 75-80% enters the river downstream of the dam, including at the confluence of the Brazeau River, which is also dam controlled.

In Rocky Mountain House, which is about 120 kilometres downstream of the Bighorn Dam, the lowest recorded flows remained above 50 m³/s from around midday on Thursday, August 31st into the morning of Friday, September 1st.

To see real-time flow data at various stations on the North Saskatchewan River, visit www.rivers.alberta.ca – note that the data is not validated.

Flows generally take about three days to reach Edmonton from the Bighorn Dam and will arrive in the City sometime this Saturday. Flow levels are already lower as we progress into the fall season and the dam shutoff may lead to the lowest levels yet this year. As always, boaters should be aware that some river channels may be particularly shallow and that rocky outcrops may be difficult to see just beneath the surface.

The low flow event will certainly keep a large expanse of sand above water at the increasingly popular Cloverdale Beach, which emerged earlier this summer as river levels declined following the spring freshet. If you’re headed there this weekend, avoid swimming in the current where the water is shallow, be aware of any risks associated with fluctuating water quality (click here for the latest test results), and enjoy the unusually sandy oasis right in the heart of our City!

 

Latest water quality tests at Edmonton beaches – August 29th

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The North Saskatchewan Riverkeeper’s recreational water monitoring program conducts tests along the river at key access points within the city of Edmonton and this week’s results are now available in Swim Guide. The program tests for E. Coli, which is the standard bacterial indicator for recreational water quality as established by Health Canada guidelines. A beach is posted red when levels exceed 200 CFU/100ml (colony forming units of E. Coli per 100 ml of water) and green when levels are equal to or below 200 CFU/100ml. Please note that results only reflect water quality at the time of sampling and that E. coli levels are only one of many factors that affect the overall risk level of recreation activities in moving water.

 

Water Quality Update: Sampled Tuesday, August 29th, 2017

Laurier Park

Boat Launch

Test Result: 130 CFU/100ml

Capilano Park

Boat Launch

Test Result: 74 CFU/100ml

Cloverdale Beach

Sandbar

Test Result: 238 CFU/100ml

Fort Edmonton Footbridge

Sandbar

Test Result: 35 CFU/100ml

 

Conditions on day of sampling: Sunny and clear, breezy

Click here for last week’s results.

 

Read our earlier blog post outlining the details of the monitoring program and to learn more about how to determine the safety of recreation in the river. The results posted here only reflect the water quality at the time of sampling and are only one of many factors that affect the risks associated with recreation in a moving body of water.

Results are posted weekly on the Swim Guide and can be found on the Laurier, Capilano, Cloverdale, and Fort Edmonton pages on the website and app.

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