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Spring 2011

Science information for water professionals, policy and decision makers and others interested in effective management of Canada’s water resources

For those interested in the conservation and management of Canada’s wildlife and habitats, click here to view and sign up for the quarterly Wildlife and Landscape Science News.


Science Notes

Water Quality Monitoring and Surveillance Programs at Environment Canada

Recently launched, the Water Quality Monitoring and Surveillance Program webpages provide information on each program and describe multimedia and multiparameter monitoring programs operated by Environment Canada's Water Science and Technology Directorate:

These world class programs and networks monitor the concentrations of nutrients, ions, metals, organic pollutants, pharmaceuticals, and personal care products in water, precipitation, sediment, and aquatic biota. This work supports Environment Canada’s mandate to preserve and enhance the quality of the natural environment, including water, air, soil, flora and fauna, as well as to conserve and protect Canada's water resources, and to coordinate environmental programs.

The programs and networks, some of which have been in operation for more than 35 years, continue to adapt with time to support changing departmental priorities in research, policy development, and regulation.

Contact: Sean Backus, 905-336-4646, Water Science and Technology


Tools for Fingerprinting Oil Sands

In recent months substantial progress has been made in developing analytical chemical tools for fingerprinting oil sands acids in natural waters. Specifically, Fourier transform high resolution mass spectrometry is emerging as a viable method for distinguishing oil sands process water from different industrial sources, distinguishing industrial sources of oil sands process water components from those found in natural water, and measuring the degree of similarity of contaminants in natural waters with those found in industrial sources. The chemical tools are being refined and calibrated for sample sets from a wide variety of environmental samples and from different seasons to assess temporal and spatial variability of the approach. A manuscript by Environment Canada Water Science and Technology scientists (contact: John Headley) in collaboration with the University of Warwick, England, discussing these developments is published online in Rapid Communication in Mass Spectrometry.


Earth Observation to Monitor the Oil Sands

At a recent workshop, Earth Observation Monitoring of the Oil Sands, participants came together to review existing earth observation science for monitoring the oil sands, develop concepts for potential operational, demonstration, and research and development projects, and gain a better understanding of the monitoring requirements of regulators. Co-organised by the Energy Resources and Conservation Board and the Canada Centre for Remote Sensing and held in Edmonton, the workshop was attended by regulatory agencies and earth observation scientists (including Environment Canada’s Drs John Lawrence and Caren Binding)who aimed to determine the potential for using/adopting a wide range of remote sensing methods (thermal, optical, and radar technologies) for monitoring air quality, water quality and quantity, terrestrial land use change, and vegetation for monitoring oil sands environmental performance.


New Canadian Water Quality Guideline for Uranium for the Protection of Aquatic Life

Fish | 89692778 | Photo.comThe Canadian Council of Ministers of the Environment has approved and posted online a new Canadian water quality guideline for uranium and a scientific supporting document. Guidelines for both long-term exposure (15 µg/L) and short-term exposure (33 µg/L) were developed to protect freshwater life (plants, invertebrates, and fish). The long-term guidelines are intended to protect aquatic life from the adverse effects of uranium over an indefinite exposure and are based on a species sensitivity distribution of chronic sublethal endpoints. The less-stringent short-term value that gives management guidance on the impacts of potentially severe, but transient events (e.g., spills) is based on acute lethality data. The federal member and technical secretariat to the Canadian Council of Ministers of the Environment Water Quality Task Group (the National Guidelines and Standards Office, Science and Risk Assessment Directorate) led development of this first Canadian water quality guideline for uranium. More information can be found in Canadian Environmental Quality Guidelines. Environment Canada contact: Susan Roe.


Another Reason for Preserving Wetlands

Wetland, Burlington, Ontario | Janet JardineWetlands are valued for many reasons, including their importance to drinking water supplies, flood control and navigation, esthetic and recreational services, and their ability to mitigate impacts from organic contaminants. In an invited lecture at the United Nations University - Institute for Water, Environment & Health, Dr Michael Arts discussed a further reason to preserve this valuable aquatic resource that to date has not been fully appreciated--the ability of wetlands to act as reservoirs and suppliers of essential polyunsaturated fatty acids to adjacent terrestrial ecosystems. The lecture, titled Preserving Wetlands: Their Biochemical Contribution to Health and Intelligence, highlighted a new paradigm for enhancing the preservation of wetlands globally.


Managing Urban Water and Municipal Wastewater

Managing urban water and municipal wastewater was the focus of the Canadian Association Sediment coring in Willowfield stormwater pond in Toronto, ON | photo: Adam Morden, Technical Operations Serviceson Water Quality’s 46th Central Canadian Symposium on Water Quality Research held at Environment Canada’s Centre for Inland Waters in Burlington, Ontario earlier this year. Dr Jiri Marsalek delivered the plenary presentation, Managing Urban Waters in the Context of the Urban Water Cycle, in which he discussed the trend of progressing urbanization and increasing concentrations of people in urban areas, and solutions to the associated demands and adverse impacts on water resources and their ecosystems through integrated water management.

Cyanobacteria, Lake Winnipeg | Jenny VeselyA special session on harmful algal blooms was co-chaired by Dr Sue Watson (Environment Canada) and Dr Jennifer Winter (Ontario Ministry of the Environment). Significant changes in water quality have resulted from intense agricultural and urban watershed development, point source and diffuse shoreline loadings from urban water and municipal wastewater, and invasive biota. The session included an interactive forum to address current progress toward proactive source water protection by identifying and mapping vulnerable drinking and Cladophora, Lake Ontario | Sue Watsonrecreational waters; applying validated protocols and evaluating new technologies to measure toxins and biomass levels; assessing risk levels, frequency, and threats; developing effective remedial and management plans; implementing management and remediation action; and assessing this action through continued monitoring and reporting. This technical session built upon a highly successful workshop on harmful algal blooms at the previous year’s symposium, and there are ideas for a continuation of the discussion for next year.

Summaries of the 14 focus areas and all oral and poster presentations can be found online in the Book of Abstracts, which includes contact information for each of the presenters.


Water Supply and Quality in the Prairies

Ridge Reservoir | Sue WatsonRidge Reservoir, a small impoundment in the St. Mary River Irrigation District (southern Alberta), is a typical example of emerging water management issues in the rural Prairies. The critical need for stewardship and watershed management was highlighted after a 1995 hydro diversion of greater than 80% of the inflow radically affected the previously high flushing rate and hydrodynamics. This also raised local concerns with water quality and safety, algal blooms, animal operations, and land-use practices. Drought and flooding, extensive agriculture and irrigation, and watershed development and mismanagement have also increased the potential for conflicting interests.

A meeting of the Ridge Reservoir Water Quality Committee was recently held in Raymond, Alberta to review and update the status of a multiyear project investigating water quality and nutrient loadings of Prairie water bodies, and develop and confirm project activities for next year. Environment Canada’s Dr Sue Watson has been actively involved in the project since 2003 when it was established as an important step towards resolving a number of water quality/quantity issues. Local stakeholders, federal, provincial and municipal governments and health agencies, and universities have been directly involved in a collaborative study of the reservoir and drainage basin to: assess key physical, chemical and biological processes contributing to water quality concerns, including the potential for toxic cyanobacteria; use this information to develop a hydrological and water quality model and long-term water protection plan; and increase public awareness and facilitate the implementation of best management practices.


Using Satellites to Monitor Canadian Inland Water Quality

True colour composite satellite image and water clarity product for the Great Lakes for September 10, 2004, derived using data from NASA's MODIS sensor.Research at Environment Canada provides clear evidence that remote sensing (satellite) technologies can generate useful tools for environmental scientists and for science users working in environmental stewardship, policy making, resource management, education, and the private sector. The satellite-derived water quality products produced by the Aquatic Optics and Remote Sensing Group allow an increase in the scale and cost-effectiveness of monitoring activities, thus enhancing the potential for early warning of adverse ecosystem effects. This has enormous implications for providing effective and consistent widespread monitoring of both event-driven and recurring water quality issues. More information can be found in a new research impact study, Developing New Tools to Monitor Canadian Inland Water Quality by Caren Binding and Michael Forbes.


Recent Publications

Baird, D.J. and B.W. Sweeney. 2011. Applying DNA barcoding in benthology: the state of the science. J.N. Am. Benthol. Soc. 30(1): 122-124

Bobba, A.G., P.A. Chambers and J. Spoelstra. 2010. Environmental impacts in arid and semiarid floodplains. Journal of Environmental Hydrology 18:1-15. 

Bonsal, B.R., E.E. Wheaton, A.C. Chipanshi, C. Lin, D.J. Sauchyn and L. Wen. 2011. Drought research in Canada: a review. Atmosphere – Ocean. DOI:103137/AO1203.2010.

Bothwell, M.L. and C. Kilroy. 2011. Phosphorus limitation of the freshwater benthic diatom Didymosphenia geminata determined by the frequency of dividing cells. Freshwater Biology 56: 565-578.

Corriveau, J., P.A. Chambers, A.G. Yates and J.M. Culp. 2010. Snowmelt and its role in the hydrologic and nutrient budgets of Prairie streams, p. 47-52. In E. van Bochove, P.A. Vanrolleghem, P.A. Chambers, B. Novotna and G. Thériault (ed.), Proceedings of the 14th International Conference of the IWA Diffuse Pollution Specialist Group (DIPCON 2010), Beaupré, Québec, Canada.

Elliott, J.A. and A.J. Cessna. 2010. Transport of two sulfonylurea herbicides in runoff from border dyke irrigation. Journal of Soil and Water Conservation 65(5): 298-303.

Granger, R.J. and N. Hedstrom. 2011. Modelling hourly rates of evaporation from small lakes. Hydrol. Earth Syst. Sci. 15: 267-277.

Koehler, G. and L.I. Wassenaar. 2011. Realtime stable isotope monitoring of natural waters by parallel-flow laser spectroscopy. Analytical Chemistry 83: 913-919.

Mesquita, P.S., F.J. Wrona and T.D. Prowse. 2010. Effects of retrogressive permafrost thaw slumping on sediment chemistry and submerged macrophytes in Arctic tundra lakes. Freshwater Biology 55: 2347-2358. doi:10.1111/j.1365-2427.2010.02450.x.

Mitchell, M.J., G. Lovett, S. Bailey, F. Beall, D. Burns, D. Buso, T.A. Clair, F. Courchesne, L. Duchesne, C. Eimers, I. Fernandez, D. Houle, D.S. Jeffries, G.E. Likens, M.D. Moran, R. Christopher, D. Schwede, J. Shanley, K.C. Weathers and R. Vet. 2011. Comparisons of watershed sulfur budgets in southeast Canada and northeast U.S.: New approaches and implications. Biogeochemistry 103: 181-207.

Prowse, T.D. and K. Brown. 2010. Hydro-ecological effects of changing Arctic river and lake ice covers: a review. Hydrology Research 41(6): 454-461.

Reynoldson, T.B., J.M. Culp, R. Lowell and J.S. Richardson. 2010. Fraser River Basin, chapter 15, p. 300-319. In A.C. Benke and C.E. Cushing (ed.), Field guide to rivers of North America. Elsevier Academic Press, Boston, MA, U.S.A.

van der Sanden, J.J., H. Drouin, F.E. Hicks and S. Beltaos. 2009. Potential of RADARSAT-2 for the monitoring of river freeze-up processes, p. 364-377. In Proceedings of the 15th Workshop on River Ice, St. John's, Newfoundland and Labrador.

Zha, T., A.G. Barr, G. van der Kamp, T.A. Black, J.H. McCaughey and L.B. Flanagan. 2010. Interannual variation of evapotranspiration from forest and grassland ecosystems in western Canada in relation to drought. Agricultural and Forest Meteorology 150: 1476-1484. DOI:10.1016/j.agrformet.2010.08.003.


About this e-news

To forge better links between water science and water policy, this free newsletter produced by S&T Liaison provides timely information on the research activities of Environment Canada's Water Science and Technology Directorate to water professionals, policy and decision makers, governments, and other groups involved with managing water resources effectively.

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