Resources available for further information.
There are many types of water demands on the North Saskatchewan River and Watershed. These include hydroelectric generation, human consumption, oil and gas extraction, mining, and agricultural uses such as irrigation and livestock watering. All of these, as well as precipitation and groundwater base flow, affect overall stream flow in rivers and streams. The cumulative impact of land use and water demand is an emerging area of concern, with possible impacts on environmental integrity and water quantity and quality for the future of this river and watershed.
A large industrial base in the Edmonton area withdraws water from the North Saskatchewan River for cooling and process waters. Oil and gas activities, including deep-well injection for enhanced oil recovery, de-watering, and steam-assisted gravity drainage, permanently remove some water from the hydrologic cycle. Draining wetlands has resulted in the loss of both surface water storage capability and protection of source water quality through wetland processes. Urban growth raises the issues of municipal storm water management, outfalls into the North Saskatchewan and other rivers, and the use of lawn fertilizers and pesticides. Several villages, towns, and cities in the watershed have wastewater treatment plants or wastewater lagoons that discharge their treated effluent into the North Saskatchewan River or its tributaries. The lakes and streams of the watershed have also suffered water quality degradation and fish habitat loss as a result of loss of riparian lands, increased agricultural and septic nutrient effluent such as phosphorus and nitrogen, and human development. All of these cumulative effects have caused increased algal growth and vegetation and increased demand on the fresh water resources. (Source: Case study - North Saskatchewan Watershed in Alberta)
The North Saskatchewan River Watershed has many excellent fishing and recreation areas. However, as a result of the impact of the Capital Region on number of anglers (overfishing) , fish spawning grounds and habitat loss: many lakes, streams, and tributaries have compromised fishing populations. As mentioned above, this has been coupled with water levels decreasing in many of these waterbodies further degrading the fish habitat, fish populations, and recreational water quality. To summarise, Edmonton and the Capital Region are the greatest beneficiaries by numbers for swimming, drinking, and fishing in the NSR watershed, but also the greatest impact due to population, urban growth and industrial activity (see Cumulative Effects).
Other resources for details on the state of water quality and threats to the North Saskatchewan River and Watershed:
- North Saskatchewan River Basin (Summary of the state of the watershed and issues),
- Saskatchewan River Basin. (Summary of the state of the whole Saskatchewan River basin)
- North Saskatchewan Watershed Alliance. (Publications and Studies on the State of the Watershed, Water Quality, and Cumulative Effects)