Sadie’s 5 Favourite Waterbodies

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I have loved water since I can remember. Whether it was splashing around in a bathtub, treading water with my synchronized swimming team, rowing in my high school regatta, or catching a long wave on a surfboard, many of my fondest memories involve water. I love sharing these stories of my experiences on the water almost as much as I love hearing other people’s stories of their relationship to water. Water sustains us, water moves us, and water fills us. As humans, we require water for our survival, and our connection to water creates some of the most treasured memories of our lives.

 

I have a plethora of special, important water stories. And when forced to select one, my story changes from day to day. I can’t be forced to have a single watermark express my complex, loving relationship with H2O. I have done my best to limit my watermarks to 5 special bodies of water with the hopes of inspiring you to share your own on the Watermark Project. After reading my stories, please share yours and contribute to an important database of people’s personal connections to water.

 

Lake McKenzie

For a post-university celebratory expedition, I travelled to Australia, first to stay with my family in Sydney and work, and then to explore! One of the unforgettable destinations that I visited was Fraser Island. This island is the largest sand island in the world. Sand is a defining feature of this island since the beaches are the only roadways on the island. While this island is surrounded by ocean, it is home to about 100 freshwater lakes. Each lake has a different defining feature. One of the lakes that I visited was only accessible by a deep hike through jungle-like forest. Upon reaching this lake, the aroma of this pale green tea tree lake reminded me of a spa, and so did the tiny fish that nibbled on the dead skin of my toes. One of the streams that we visited had such clean, purified water that we dunked our bottles right in and drank straight from it. And my absolute favourite watermark of this island is Lake McKenzie. This lake is pictured on many Australian tour brochures, but these photos do not do it justice. The sand is pure silica, and the brightest white beach that I have ever seen. Contrasted with the snow-coloured sand is the most pristine-looking water that I have ever touched. This lake is completely filled with rainwater, and is so pure since its high acidity isn’t ideal for plant or animal life, (so doesn’t have any plant or animal waste in it either!) I will never forget the stunning turquoise clear water of the shallow beach contrasted with the black of the deep, which seemed like an underwater cliff.

 

Lake Louise

I grew up in Calgary, Alberta and spent much time driving back and forth to the Rocky Mountains. The turquoise glacial waters of Lake Louise are always a breathtaking sight. In the winter, I loved skating on the lake framed by massive mountains blanketed with impeccably white snow. Yet visiting the lake in the summer is a completely different experience. One summer when I was quite young, my family and I rented canoes to paddle on Lake Louise. With the heat of the sun, I was tempted to jump in. I dipped my hand in with a particularly deep stroke of my paddle and instantly changed my mind. The water was unbelievably cold, even right in the middle of the summer! On this same trip my parents told me a famous myth that I believed for almost a year after they told me. The story goes that the blue colour of the lake is painted on the bottom each year and then they refill the lake to give it a bright, vibrant blue. While I now know that this story isn’t true, it is still shocking how bright this glacial lake really is!

 

Caribbean Sea

While pursuing my environmental studies, I participated in a four month field study in Barbados. During the day I would be either in the field planting cashew trees to reforest a sand quarry or in the classroom learning about water resource management techniques. This was the origin story for my technical understanding of water quality. On the weekends, I was fulfilling my ultimate lifelong dream of breathing underwater. I will always remember the sensational feeling in my scuba training of sitting on the bottom of the ocean, looking up and watching my exhaled bubbles soar to the surface of the water. I looked over to my scuba buddy and signalled OK with my fingers. In reality, I was so beyond okay. This was beyond any experience I had felt before. This was overwhelming bliss. And it would not have been possible without water.

 

Lac des Sables

Photo credit: junkii, Flickr

 

As a young child, my parents, sister, and I would visit my grandparents in Notre Dame du Laus, QC many summers. Their log house was only about 20 meters away from the fittingly named, sandy beach of Lac des Sables. I remember building sand castles with my cousin, playing on the windsurf boards with my mom and dad, and catching and releasing frogs and toads with my sister. It was also the first and only time I went fishing. My grandfather took me out on his boat, he threw down the anchor and we got to work. He threaded the wriggling worms on the hooks and we tossed our lines into the water. My patience and diligence were apparent as I waited and waited and waited. Eventually I caught a small silvery fish. As I watched it flop around in the boat, I couldn’t handle the responsibility of harming this fish any further and I made my grandfather remove the hook and toss the fish back in the water. I may never be a professional angler, but I will always remember the connection that I had with my family whenever we would visit Lac des Sables, and that is the most important aspect of this watermark for me.  

 

North Saskatchewan River

Upon moving to Edmonton last year, I was immediately drawn to the river. Before I even knew what it was called, I would go down to the North Saskatchewan River valley to sit and meditate along its banks. After a long day of work, the river was always there. On one of my post-work expeditions to the river, I decided that I really wanted to get down to touch the water. I planned my journey to the famous Fort Edmonton Footbridge Beach, which is a 6 minute bike ride down from Fort Edmonton Park. I had packed my camera along with a book and a towel to settle down and enjoy my afternoon by the river. On my trip down, I pedaled along the river valley trails. Despite knowing that I was right beside the river, the water is mostly obscured by tall, dense trees. I kept pedaling along, about 3 minutes away from the beach, when suddenly I felt my bike clunking with each turn of the wheels. I looked back and saw that my back tire was completely flat. I was so close to the beach that I knew that I couldn’t turn back. I walked over to the bridge and made an audible gasp at the sight of the river. This is such a stunning bend of the North Saskatchewan, with bright, clear waters and a long sand bar. After locking up my bike I got down to the beach, took off my shoes, and waded over to the sandy stretch. I watched canoes paddle by and motor boats jet along. All of the stresses of my bike disappeared as I splashed my feet in the water. After a lovely afternoon of watching hawks soar and drawing pictures in the sand, I called a taxi to take me and my deflated bike away from this gorgeous beach. I’m already eagerly planning my next trip to the sandbar next spring!

 

Watermarks

We all have a connection to water. By reading my fondest water tales, I hope it reminds you of an influential body of water in your life. The Watermark Project is building a strong database of water stories to reflect the importance and connection that we all feel with water. Think of your watermark and share it with the water community on watermarkproject.ca. Like how drops of water cause ripples to form, by sharing your watermark it can move others to share their own connections to water. Who will you inspire?

What Does Water Pollution Look Like?

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The North Saskatchewan Riverkeeper ensures that we have a swimmable, drinkable, and fishable North Saskatchewan River. One of the ways that you can contribute to this goal is by reporting water pollution. Last week while giving a water presentation to a grade 4 class, I was asked by a student, “what does water pollution look like?” I was very impressed by the question, and it made me realize how hard it is to describe water pollution. One of the biggest challenges of reporting water pollution is being able to recognize what is and is not normal. A part of this challenge is that some indicators of pollution like oil and foam can also occur naturally in water. There are tricks to differentiate between natural and artificial oils and foams in water. If you want to help but don’t know how, read on to learn about what water pollution is and how you can report it!

 

Garbage

Let’s start off with an easy one. If you see a big pile of garbage floating in the water, that is clearly water pollution. We know that plastic does not grow in our lakes and rivers. If you see garbage floating in water, and if it is safe to do so, pick it up and dispose of it properly! Not all forms of garbage are safe or easy to clean up, so don’t feel obligated to pick up anything remotely dangerous. If you see garbage that you can’t clean up, TAKE A PICTURE! After you take that picture make sure to share it. You can share that picture on social media with the hashtag #swimdrinkfish, you can use the Swim Guide “Report Pollution” tool on the app and website, or you can report it to the city of Edmonton by calling 311.

 

Sewage

Unfortunately, Edmonton’s sewer system is not perfect. We have what is known as a Combined Sewer System. When the underground sewers fill up with excess rainwater or snowmelt, that extra water (including raw sewage) goes untreated right into the North Saskatchewan River. While the city is working on fixing this, sewage pollution remains a threat to the water quality of the river. A couple of weeks ago, while participating in a cleanup of Irene Parlby Park, I found a shocking amount of those “flushable” wipes as well as some tampon applicators and condoms along the riverside. If you see these and don’t have gloves and garbage bags, like I did, you can still help. Just take a picture and report it on the Swim Guide or share it on social media!

 

Nature or Not

Another potential indicator for pollution is dead wildlife. Of course, in the natural world death is a part of life, so we cannot assume that any animal is dead from pollution. If you see a single dead fish floating in the water, that may not be a definite indicator for pollution. However, if you see a whole bunch of dead fish floating in the water, there is probably a serious problem. Regardless, I would recommend that you, once again, TAKE A PICTURE! Sharing that picture on the Swim Guide is an important citizen-science initiative to collect proof of pollution.

 

Oils

Oil pollution can be very harmful to aquatic plants and animals, however, normal and unpolluted water can sometimes seem oily. If you see oily-looking water, poke it with a stick or drop a rock on it. If the sheen separates into smaller pieces with jagged platelets it’s most likely normal bacteria (pictured below), but if it reforms it is most likely petroleum. I’m sure you get the drill now, but what do you do if you see oil pollution? TAKE A PICTURE!  

 

Foam

Foam is another mystery pollution. It can be totally natural, and it can also be a sign of pollutants. Natural foam forms when organic matter is being stirred up and interacts with air. Normal foam on water is usually off-white with an earthy or fishy smell (pictured on left). On the other hand, when foam is unnatural it often has a perfumy scent and a bright white colour (pictured on right). The difference is very noticeable in pictures, so naturally (or unnaturally), you should TAKE A PICTURE!

    

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Photo Credit Left: Brocken Inaglory, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=15018761

 

Algae

Another form of pollution that can be very tricky to identify is algae. Algae itself is a natural part of any body of water. However, it is quite common to have serious blooms of blue-green algae in lakes across Alberta. This type of algae (also known as cyanobacteria) can release toxins which are harmful to humans and animals. If you see a huge bloom of algae, just ignore it… JUST KIDDING! Please take a picture and post it to social media or share it on Swim Guide and it can be identified and managed.

 

Reporting

Don’t be overwhelmed with your new duties as a photographer! It might seem too easy, but taking pictures and sharing them on the Swim Guide and/or on social media provides an extremely important body of pollution evidence. This evidence can be utilized by researchers to identify sources of pollution to stop them directly, and to show exactly where the cleanup needs to happen! Most of us have our river-saving devices in our pockets all of the time. Even if you aren’t 100% sure if you’re looking at water pollution, send it to the Swim Guide or share on social media with #swimdrinkfish and we can make sure to clean it up or solve the problem! In Edmonton, you can report pollution by calling 311. Alberta also has a 24/7 line for environmental emergency reporting at 1-800-222-6514. Thanks for helping us keep the river free of pollution!

 


Sources

 

“Blue-Green Algae.” MyHealth.Alberta.ca Government of Alberta Personal Health Portal, 2018, www.myhealth.alberta.ca/Alberta/Pages/blue-green-algae.aspx.  

“Combined Sewer System.” City of Edmonton, www.edmonton.ca/city_government/utilities/combined-sewer-system.aspx.

Flowers, Matt. “The Rule Everyone Should Follow to Save Our Waters.” Lake Ontario Waterkeeper, 2017, www.waterkeeper.ca/blog/2017/9/7/the-rule-everyone-should-follow-to-save-our-waters?rq=foam%2Bpollution.

“Identifying Water Pollution.” Ottawa Riverkeeper, www.ottawariverkeeper.ca/wp-content/uploads/2015/09/1_Identifying-Water-Pollution.pdf.

Moreau, Jennifer. “What Is That Oily Sheen on the Water?” Burnaby Now, 22 Feb. 2016, www.burnabynow.com/opinion/what-is-that-oily-sheen-on-the-water-1.2179165.

“Nonpetroleum Sheens on Water.” Minnesota Pollution Control Agency, 2017, www.pca.state.mn.us/sites/default/files/c-er4-07.pdf.

A Wildlife Lover’s Guide to the River Valley

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I am a self-proclaimed nature nerd. I love the natural world. Whether it’s going camping, going birdwatching in wildlife reserves, or stopping to watch the neighbourhood hares on my walk to work, nothing makes me happier than seeing wildlife. The North Saskatchewan watershed is home to many critters big and small. Almost every day I encounter magpies, squirrels, ravens, white-tailed jackrabbits, and chickadees. While these species may not be appreciated by everyone, they are all part of the incredible biodiversity of the North Saskatchewan Watershed! It’s the perfect time of year to get your binoculars, get outside, and get to animal tracking, before they fly south or crawl to hibernation for the winter.

 

 

Fish

Of course, there are many species living IN the North Saskatchewan River. Due to the presence of diverse fish, the river is a popular location for anglers. The North Saskatchewan is home to burbot, goldeye, lake sturgeon, mountain whitefish, walleye, northern pike, and sauger. There are fishing regulations on many of these species, so be aware of the laws before casting your line. If you are cooking up fish caught from the river, try not to eat them more than once a week due to high mercury concentrations. Fish are far from the only critters living in the river. While not native, there are also some edible invertebrates residing in the river: crayfish! These crustaceans are said to be delicious. They look (and apparently) taste like little lobsters.

   

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

(Photo credit: USFWS Midwest Region. Flickr.)

 

Amphibians/Reptiles

As we move out of the water, Edmonton is home to a variety of amphibians as well. We can spot tiger salamanders, wood frogs, boreal chorus frogs, and canadian toads in parks across the city. Amphibians can be tricky to spot since they are usually quite good at hiding, many only come out at night, and they like humid environments that are often harder to get to. Reptiles also live in our watershed, including the red-sided garter snake, and the plains garter snake. If searching for snakes, you are more likely to find the red-sided garter snake in the river valley while plains garter snakes are found more often in open grasslands.   

 

                        

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Birds

When visiting the river at one of the many beaches across the North Saskatchewan, you are most likely to see animals floating on, diving in, or flying above the water. There are many beautiful common and uncommon species of birds living near the river. Almost each visit to the river I spot gulls, specifically ring-billed gulls. The Edmonton river valley is home to a huge diversity of bird species including woodpeckers, jays, grouse, warblers, finches, merlins, juncos, waxwings, kingfishers, and eagles. Researchers have seen significant changes to bird distribution, and species like peregrine falcons have returned despite almost being wiped out by the impact of DDT on their eggs.

                                        

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mammals

Four footed friends also frequent the areas surrounding the river. Just last week a cougar was spotted in the river valley. Coyotes, skunks, porcupines, deer, moose, beavers, and raccoons can also be seen by the river. This may not be a big surprise since Edmonton’s river valley is the largest park in North America, and provides a natural corridor for species to pass through.

                     

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Animals rely on the river just as we do. Life without water is impossible for any living thing! Keeping the North Saskatchewan River swimmable, drinkable, and fishable does not only benefit us, but the other creatures that rely on it. A thriving ecosystem benefits all species within it, therefore our participation in protecting the watershed is good for animals, including us! Fall is a season of change in the animals kingdom, and as the birds prepare for migration, the bears prepare for hibernation, and the frogs prepare for cryogenation (yes they almost freeze in the winter), get outside and appreciate the other creatures living among us!

 

To report a wildlife sighting, call the Alberta Fish and Wildlife Officers at 780-427-3574 or the coyote information hotline at 780-644-5744.

 

 

Sources:

 

“Alberta Amphibian and Reptile Conservancy.” Saving Alberta’s Herps, www.savingalbertasherps.org/Species.html.

Amphibian Identifier. Alberta Volunteer Amphibian Monitoring Program. www.ab-conservation.com/downloads/avamp/aca_amphibian_identifier.pdf

Edmonton Master Naturalists. “The North Saskatchewan River.” Nature Edmonton, 21 July 2014, www.natureedmonton.wordpress.com/2013/08/10/the-north-saskatchewan-river/.

“Fishing.” City of Edmonton, www.edmonton.ca/activities_parks_recreation/parks_rivervalley/fishing.aspx.

Marcellin, Josh. “The North Saskatchewan River Has Killer Angling Right in Edmonton.” Vue Weekly, 2015, www.vueweekly.com/the-north-saskatchewan-river-has-killer-angling-right-in-edmonton/.

Myroon, Alex. “Local Snakes Slither to Winter Homes.” Local News, 4 Oct. 2018. https://www.fortsaskonline.com/local/local-snakes-hunker-down-for-long-winter

Salz, Allison. “Edmonton Is Teeming with Wildlife, Says Naturalist.” Edmonton Sun, 15 July 2013, www.edmontonsun.com/2013/07/13/edmonton-is-teeming-with-wildlife-says-naturalist/wcm/2c0ddd6b-58b6-4515-9a1d-015f7ffabbd5.

Snowdon, Wallis. “’Just like Lobster’: North Saskatchewan River Crawling with Crayfish | CBC News.” CBCnews, CBC/Radio Canada, 2 Aug. 2017, www.cbc.ca/news/canada/edmonton/crayfish-edmonton-north-saskatchewan-river-1.4230555.

“The Dependable Online Resource For Fishing In Alberta.” AlbertaFishingGuide.com, www.albertafishingguide.com/location/water/north-saskatchewan-river-downstream-drayton-valley.

Weber, Bob. “Birders Migrate to Edmonton, Home to Many Avian Species.” CTVNews, 26 Oct. 2015, www.ctvnews.ca/lifestyle/birders-migrate-to-edmonton-home-to-many-avian-species-1.2627986.

A Free and Easy Way to Manage Anxiety: Nature

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Deep breath in. Hold. Deep breath out.  

 

Anxiety, stress, nervousness. We all experience these to varying degrees. Managing anxiety can be challenging, but luckily a proven method of management is free and easy to do. Spend time in nature!

 

This may sound overly simplistic, but it’s a habit that is becoming less common and increasingly important. Spending time in nature is proven to reduce stress levels and increase happiness. Even taking a moment to look out the window and appreciate a tree opens up the mind to something beyond ourselves, and reduces our anxiety levels. Anxiety and depression are on the rise, so simple methods to combat it, like spending time in nature, are key.

 

Whenever I get down to the water, my breathing eases, my mind calms, and my shoulders relax. The benefits of nature are not just seen through personal experience, but proven through science. Research shows that the more one immerses themself into nature, the less they experience negative thoughts. When combined, nature and physical activity have additional health benefits. Physical activity in natural settings, also known as green exercise, leads to positive short and long-term health outcomes. There are some impressive health benefits to spending time in nature, and luckily Edmonton has plenty of nature right in the city.

 

In the North Saskatchewan river valley and along the many lakes across the prairies, we have an abundance of natural park spaces to explore. Getting down to the water is proven to be good for health and fortunately it’s easy to get to. Edmonton’s river valley is the largest expanse of urban parkland in Canada and offers a multitude of anxiety reducing, nature-filled activities! Autumn is a lovely time of year to enjoy picnics, hikes, or bike rides in the river valley to boost serotonin levels! Experiencing the river by kayak, canoe, stand up paddleboard, or motorboat can be both eye-opening and calming. When the weather gets colder and the snow falls, cross country skiing and skating become the perfect modes of river valley transport! Year-round, the river valley provides a unique and spectacular setting to take time out of your schedule and unwind. It may even help your mental health!

 

 

Sources

 

Barton, Jo, and Jules Pretty. “What Is the Best Dose of Nature and Green Exercise for Improving Mental Health? A Multi-Study Analysis.” Environmental Science & Technology, vol. 44, no. 10, 2010, pp. 3947–3955., doi:10.1021/es903183r.

LaBier, Douglas. “Why Connecting With Nature Elevates Your Mental Health.” Psychology Today, Sussex Publishers, 2018, www.psychologytoday.com/ca/blog/the-new-resilience/201801/why-connecting-nature-elevates-your-mental-health.

Nigro, Sherry. “The Connection between Nature and Mental Health.” Nature Canada, 2018, www.naturecanada.ca/news/blog/mental-health-week/.

Whitley, Robert. “Why Nature Is Good For Your Mental Health.” Huffington Post, 2017, www.huffingtonpost.ca/robertwhitley/nature-mental-health_a_23028632/.

What’s a Watershed?

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Each and every one of us lives in a watershed. Many of us may not realize this, or may not even know what this means. Watersheds impact people’s lives and people have significant impacts on watersheds. In order to understand these impacts, it is vital to understand what a watershed is.

 

A watershed is also known as a drainage basin or a catchment. Watersheds include an area of land in which precipitation drains into a body of water. The rain that falls and the snow that melts in that area including the parks, streets, yards, and farms will flow into that body of water. In many cities and communities across Alberta and Saskatchewan, that body of water is the North Saskatchewan River. Therefore those communities all live within the North Saskatchewan Watershed. The North Saskatchewan Watershed is one of the 7 major watersheds in Alberta.

 

All precipitation in the North Saskatchewan watershed area drains into the river. This includes any trash, household chemicals, pesticides, fertilizers, animal waste, etc. that is outside. In great quantities these pollutants can threaten the swimmability, drinkability, and fishability of the river. The biggest threats to the North Saskatchewan River according to the WWF are pollution (mainly agricultural runoff), habitat fragmentation, and habitat loss. In many communities, including Edmonton, this river is our source of drinking water and where we dispose of our waste water. Therefore keeping the watershed clean is important for everyone living in the watershed. The communities upstream impact the river for those downstream, therefore it’s important that all of the communities living in the North Saskatchewan Watershed work together to protect it.

 

There are Watershed Planning and Advisory Councils such as the North Saskatchewan Watershed Alliance, which work to protect the watershed along with governments, companies, and other water organizations. But everyone living in the watershed can participate in protecting it! We can plant native species in our gardens to soak up stormwater that would otherwise flow towards the river. We can reduce our use of fertilizers and pesticides which wash away into the river and negatively impact biodiversity. An easy activity to engage in is washing your car at a carwash instead of in your driveway. At the carwash they have filtration to remove chemicals like oils, antifreeze, and transmission fluid that would go down the storm drains and to the river when washing at home. Another great way to take care of the watershed is to clean it up! It’s very easy to join or organize a river valley cleanup by visiting https://www.shorelinecleanup.ca/cleanups. You can also Contact Us and we will help you plan a cleanup. Let’s learn about our watershed and help to keep it clean!

 

Sources:

 

“Canadian Watershed Reports.” WWF-Canada Watershed Reports, www.watershedreports.wwf.ca/#ws-10/by/threat-overall/threat.

Glave, James. “10 Ways to Help Your Watershed.” Houselogic, HouseLogic, 27 Sept. 2016, www.houselogic.com/save-money-add-value/save-on-utilities/how-to-improve-watershed/.

“What Is a Watershed?” North Saskatchewan Watershed Alliance, www.nswa.ab.ca/our-watershed/#section-whats-a-watershed.

Is the North Saskatchewan River Dirty?

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Many people living in communities along the North Saskatchewan think that the river is dirty. When I first moved to Edmonton last November I saw the colour of the river and assumed the same thing. The river was covered with ice and snow, but instead of the typical bright white snow that you see elsewhere in the city, the snow on the river was brown. I assumed that the water wasn’t clean, and many people that I have spoken to make the same assumption. But just because water isn’t clear, that doesn’t mean that it isn’t clean. So what is the state of the water quality in the North Saskatchewan River?

 

The birthplace of the North Saskatchewan River, also known as the headwaters, is the Saskatchewan Glacier in the Columbia Icefields. When I picture glacial waters, it makes me think of the pristine cloudy turquoise waters of Lake Louise or Moraine Lake, where I grew up visiting. Why is it that some bodies of water coming from glaciers look bright and colourful while others look brown?

Rivers born from glaciers often have high levels of sediment and silt. Much of the colour of glacial lakes and rivers are due to erosion. This occurs when glaciers break down minerals from rock, forming sediment, which makes its way from the melting glaciers into lakes and rivers. Some lakes display dazzling colours as a result of this sediment. Sometimes in rivers, the colours are more of a muddy-brown because of the speed and flow of water. This does not mean that the river is dirtier than the lake. The colour depends on the types of minerals in the water, how they are moving, and how the light reflects off of the water. In glacial lakes, minerals are suspended and this causes light reflection, which often displays vibrant turquoise colours. This sediment appears differently in rivers, and while there are parts of the North Saskatchewan that are brilliant blue, it often appears brown because these sediments are constantly being stirred up. This sediment is also the reason that we have beaches that form across Edmonton, such as the Fort Edmonton Footbridge Beach, the Cloverdale Beach (aka Accidental Beach), and the Terwillegar Park Beach. Last summer, we tested these sites, among others, for water quality, and many of them passed over 50% of the time.

 

The colour of a river does not necessarily indicate that it is clean or dirty. That being said, there are some potential threats to the water quality of the North Saskatchewan River. These threats include urban and agricultural runoff and combined sewer overflows which discharges pollutants into the river during periods of heavy rainfall. If you do ever see pollution such as trash or chemical spills, take a picture and report it on the Swim Guide app or website, or if you see an environmental emergency call the Alberta 24-hour Environment Toll-free Hotline at 1-800-222-6514.

The waters of the North Saskatchewan River are not dirty! Even when the water isn’t perfectly clear, it’s often clean. There are a wide variety of activities that we can take advantage of right on the river, including swimming, stand up paddleboarding, canoeing, kayaking, fishing, jet boating, and even gold panning. Before getting into the water, it’s always a good idea to check for any recent water quality updates on theswimguide.org. The North Saskatchewan River is not dirty, and we should go out and take advantage of this beautiful body of water whenever possible!

 

 

Sources:

 

Dreger-Smylie, Brigitte. “How Clean Is the North Saskatchewan River?” North Saskatchewan Riverkeeper, 6 Aug. 2015, www.saskriverkeeper.ca/how-clean-is-the-north-saskatchewan-river

Misachi, John. “Why Are Glacial Lakes Blue?” World Atlas – Maps, Geography, Travel, WorldAtlas, 16 July 2018, www.worldatlas.com/articles/why-are-glacial-lakes-blue.html.

“North Saskatchewan River Myths.” EPCOR, www.epcor.com/learn/river/Pages/myths.aspx

 

Featured image by Johntwrl at English Wikipedia

Can I Flush it?

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I’ve often wondered about the flushability of everyday items. I have watched people in movies flushing medications down the toilet, I have flushed my dead fish down the toilet (RIP), and I sometimes wonder whether flushable wipes are truly flushable. Are these seemingly normal habits good ones for our river? Most of the time I don’t think about what goes down my drain. What was once out of sight, was out of mind! But now I cannot stop wondering about what happens once it’s flushed. My mission is to find out what is good to go down the drain, and how to properly dispose of regular, everyday items. Here’s what I discovered.

 

Medications

 

The results are in: no drugs down the drain! I have always assumed that I should put expired medication down the toilet, but I have recently learned that they really shouldn’t be flushed. Scientists find large traces of medications in our bodies of water because they are being flushed and make their way into lakes and rivers. Medications are not always filtered out during the water treatment process. This can negatively impact the health of our waterbodies, as they can be consumed by fish. For example, many fish have been found to be changing due to exposure to estrogen from birth control pills. The male fish are losing their male characteristics, and this problem could wipe out entire communities of fish since they become unable to reproduce. So what should we do with our old, expired, and unused medication? We can bring them to the pharmacy or to a take-back program with local police. That way they can be properly disposed, and don’t make their way into our waterway.

 

 

Fish

 

While escaping down the drain might have worked out for Nemo, flushing is not the best way to send off our deceased pets. The fish we buy at pet shops are not typically local species that would benefit our waterbody. Most pet fish are exotic, ornamental species from far away. While they are beautiful, they can bring diseases and parasites that our local fish have never encountered. If these fish (dead or alive) are introduced to a local waterbody, they can endanger the entire ecosystem. Also, sometimes the fish we flush might not have actually kicked the bucket, and these exotic species can be extremely invasive. This means that these fish might be able to reproduce, evade predators, and hunt better than the local species, and affect the important balances of the ecosystem. What is the proper way to send off our beloved fish once they have gone belly up? They can be brought to your vet to be properly disposed of, you can bury them, or you can put them in your compost or garbage. If I could bring back my old fish Gill, I would make sure not to send him into our river!

 

 

Flushable or not

 

It’s right in the name: flushable. Once they disappear down the black hole of our toilet, do flushable wipes break down like toilet paper does? No! Wet wipes, even ones that say that they are flushable, are a big problem for our pipes. By doing a bit of research, I found out that a lot of the things that I used to think were okay to flush, are actually not! Even tissues, tampons, floss, band-aids, and hair should all be thrown in the garbage, and not flushed down the toilet! The only things we really should be flushing are pee, poop, and toilet paper.

 

 

How does it get to the river?

 

The water from our toilets in Edmonton go down the pipes to get treated at the Goldbar Wastewater Treatment Plant. Most of this water gets to the treatment plant before going into the North Saskatchewan River, but not all of it. On rainy days, our sewer pipes fill up, and instead of going to the treatment plant, they go straight into the river. This is due to our pipe system, known as Combined Sewers. There are 19 pipes in Edmonton that release stormwater, debris, and raw sewage directly into the North Saskatchewan River on days with heavy rainfall, corresponding to 2% of the city’s total discharge. Click here to learn more about these combined sewer overflows, (CSOs).

 

 

I’ve always known deep down that everything that I put down the drain or flush down the toilet doesn’t magically disappear. However, I don’t often stop to really consider what happens, and I know I’m not the only one. Everything that goes down the drains in Edmonton eventually impacts the North Saskatchewan River.  In order to keep our water clean for ourselves, for the plants and animals that depend on it, and for all of the other communities living downstream, we need to pause and reflect before sending anything down our drains.

 

 

 

Sources:

Canada, Health. “Safe Disposal of Prescription Drugs.” Canada.ca, 6 May 2014, www.canada.ca/en/health-canada/services/safe-disposal-prescription-drugs.html

“Combined Sewer System.” EPCOR, www.epcor.com/learn/about-our-drainage-system/Pages/combined-sewer-system.aspx

Racco, Marilisa. “9 Things You Should Never Flush down the Toilet.” Global News, Global News, 20 July 2017, www.globalnews.ca/news/3609987/9-things-you-should-never-flush-down-the-toilet

Rangan, Daksha. “Don’t Flush Goldfish, Officials Warn. Here’s Why.” The Weather Network, www.theweathernetwork.com/news/articles/alberta-advises-against-flushing-fish-down-the-drain-/53426

 

Introducing the North Saskatchewan Riverkeeper’s new Outreach Coordinator… Sadie Caron

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Hello fellow Riverkeepers! It’s a pleasure to be a member of the Swim Drink Fish team in Edmonton. I am a former Calgarian and Montréalaise (Montrealer). Prior to my move to Edmonton last year, everyone kept telling me how gorgeous the river valley was, and everyone was right! The North Saskatchewan River is a beautiful body of water that flows right through the city and connects all Edmontonians. I immediately felt this connection to the river, going on hikes and bike rides through the many trails lining the river, and meditating along its banks. I’m always glad to see the busy parks and paths along the river valley, since it’s a perfect place to meet with friends and family and build a strong sense of community.

 

I have always loved water, my parents have called me a fish since I was very young. My grandparents used to live in a cabin right on the beach of Lac des Sables in Notre Dame Du Laus, Quebec, where I would play all day in the water with my family, swimming, fishing, and catching frogs in buckets (and releasing them of course). I also grew up going to summer camp in Tichborne, Ontario and learning how to canoe, kayak, sail, and windsurf on Eagle Lake. In high school on Vancouver Island, I was a part of the rowing team and would wake early to go out on the water, often meeting playful seals in Mill Bay, BC. My love of water continued throughout my years of study at McGill University, which brought me to Barbados for a field study semester. I was very lucky to go out swimming and surfing while also learning about the challenges of a water scarce country. Learning how people have come to adapt to water problems inspired me to work with water conservation, leading me to my position with the North Saskatchewan Riverkeeper.

 

As with many of us Waterkeepers, I have a dream of a swimmable, drinkable, fishable North Saskatchewan River. I have a background in environmental education with the Biodome and the Biosphere in Montreal and with the Telus World of Science Edmonton which I will apply to water literacy education across the North Saskatchewan River watershed. I have a strong relationship to water, and I’m sure that you do too! Share your watermark (your own story of a memory on water) to contribute to an important database of stories of water history.

Enjoy September on these 5 Alberta Waterbodies!

September is the perfect month to get outside and get to the water. While it may be getting a bit more chilly, now you can dig your favourite sweater and toque out from storage, bundle up, and face the great outdoors. Spending time outside is proven to be great for social, physical, and mental health. This is particularly important as the school year starts up. Getting to the water is the perfect opportunity to gather with friends and family, it can improve your mood, it gets you moving, it calms the mind, and it’s just plain fun! There’s no snow on the ground. The lakes have not frozen. Now is the time to get outside!

 

Alberta is feeling the chill of seasonal change approaching, but summer is far from over. September is a prime time to get outside and take advantage of the many lovely walking and biking paths, the perfect water for paddling, and maybe even brave the cold water for a dip. While the City of Edmonton might not be moving forward with constructing a permanent beach along the North Saskatchewan River, that does not mean that Edmontonians cannot get out to the water. There are 22 major parks along the river, forming the largest expanse of urban parkland in North America, and an abundance of space for activities. For ideas of beaches to visit in one of the sunniest provinces, here are a few of the most popular beaches in Alberta. For more ideas, check the Swim Guide or read on.

 

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Elk Island National Park

 

Elk Island National Park is located a quick 30 minutes away from Edmonton. If you like hiking, paddling, or seeing wildlife, this is a trip you might want to take this September. You can pack a picnic while gazing out on Astotin Lake, and if you have young ones with you (or the young at heart), build some sandcastles on the beach. There are also 11 hiking trails of various difficulties to immerse yourself in the fresh air. If paddling is more your scene, on the weekends you can rent a canoe, kayak, or stand up paddleboard; if you have your own boat, bring it along for some quality time out on the water. Elk Island is also home to many different creatures of all different shapes and sizes, including bison, elk, beavers, and the tiny boreal chorus frog. You will have to keep your eyes and ears open to witness some of these amazing creatures.

 

Wabamun Lake Provincial Park

 

Is it possible to go swimming in September? Absolutely! The Wabamun Lake Provincial Park Beach is another quick trip from Edmonton for a day full of activities. The beach has plenty of space to play in and out of the water. If you prefer birdwatching, you may be able to spot herons, bald eagles, hooded mergansers, and more. It’s also a great location for fishing, many anglers rave about the pike and walleye in Wabamun Lake.

 

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Maligne Lake

 

For a Rocky Mountain Adventure, why not trek to Maligne Lake. There are many lakes and rivers to choose to visit in Jasper National Park, so why not visit the largest? The 22km long lake is a fantastic spot to go paddling or for an epic hike. They have easy and difficult trails to take you to the tops of mountains. There are a variety of campsites at the lake, as well as many other sites around Jasper. There are a variety of activities that are still available in the surrounding area including horseback riding, mountain biking, paddling, fishing, and even traction kiting.

 

Mill Creek Ravine

 

Flowing right through Edmonton, the Mill Creek Ravine is a stunning location for a hike, for mountain biking, or for a dog walk. It’s a popular site for dog owners since there is an off leash dog park. But there are also sites for picnicking, so bring a snack to enjoy the beauty of the creek. The paved trails are accompanied by bridges to cross over the water with ease. This is a great location to escape from the hustle and bustle while still being located right in the city.

 

Accidental Beach

 

While it may not be the most accessible of beaches, the sand has returned once again this year. This year Accidental Beach (also known as Cloverdale Beach) did not have as many people come by, but it is still a great spot to visit with friends and family. Last year’s water testing showed high levels of E. coli, so bathe at your own risk. But the view of downtown from the water is reason enough to visit this accidental sandy beach.

Did you know? Edmonton’s River valley parks system is Canada’s largest stretch of urban parks

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For years and years I’ve grown up here and have taken the Edmonton River Valley and Parks for granted. Only in the last couple of years have I really begun to appreciate the incredible opportunity and beauty that is right in front of me. Whether it’s been swimming, walking, biking, or snowboarding, endless fun and enjoyment seems to be everywhere thanks to the long stretched-out natural playground that meanders through the city.

 

 

Edmonton’s River Valley is made up of 20 major parks and has over 160km of maintained pathways (not counting the abundance of unmarked trails). This makes it super easy to access the river valley from almost any point. Cliffside lookouts, mature forest, and sandy beaches are all found right in the city, not to mention an extensive amount of single track bike trails, two ski hills, and so much more. There is no doubt that the river valley system here is a true spectacle and unique to a large urban landscape.

The park system is continuous, allowing one to walk/bike/ski beside the river throughout the length of the city. The River Valley Alliance have plans, already underway, to extend and develop the continuous park system from Devon to Fort Saskatchewan.

 

 

Edmontonians seem to take advantage of the valley. If you visit one of the parks you constantly see people going for a jog, walking the dog, having picnics, canoeing, or watching the sunset. It’s great to see people using the valley and being thankful for the endless opportunity and healthy lifestyle that the river valley provides for our city.

When looking at a satellite image of Edmonton you will notice a pronounced band of green cutting through the middle of the city (the river valley). Smaller veins of green (ravines), extend out north and south connecting some of the far reaches of our city back to the river.

 

 

The North Saskatchewan River Valley is the beating heart of our city. It gives Edmonton life and creates a way for Edmontonians to connect with nature and each other. This intricate and beautiful system of forest, trails, parks, and water truly make Edmonton a unique and special city to live in and proud to be a part of.

 

 

 

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