Beaufort Watershed Stewards do several types of data gathering on a regular basis. The most frequent involve water sampling from 13 creeks along the eastern slopes of the Beaufort Range.
Stream Monitoring for Quality
The majority of our volunteer work is focused on surface water sampling. This is done year-round. During the peak flow period and the peak drought period, we sample every week. For the rest of the year, we sample every two weeks. Sampling is always done on Tuesdays as this is the day that sampling is done in creeks and streams in other jurisdictions. By sampling at the same day and time we are able to do comparisons controlling for weather.
We now sample 13 streams from Mud Bay to Royston. All streams drain from watersheds that are part of the Beaufort Mountain Range. Given the number of streams, we have two groups sampling each Tuesday—our South Pod and North Pod. South Pod is currently collecting data on two sites for selected streams. This enables comparison of water quality at two different locations on the streams, one at their Hwy 19 crossing and the second at their Hwy 19A crossing. We provide a half day training program for volunteers in the sampling program.
At each location we take the following recordings: weather conditions, air temperature, water temperature, turbidity, dissolved oxygen, pH, and specific conductivity. These data are included in a Canada-wide open access database. This national database has water data from five regions across the country.
The South Pod is led by Pam Lengyel, who does the quarterly scheduling for volunteers living close to Fanny Bay. The North Pod is led by Mark Lake, who does the scheduling for volunteers living closer to Royston. To contact either about volunteering, please email: email@example.com.
Stream Flow Monitoring
We have placed staff gauges in the majority of streams we monitor. Each time we are doing our weekly or bi-weekly quality data gathering we also record the height of the stream. This gives an indication of the flow fluctuations throughout the year.
We have installed gauging stations in several of our creeks which provide us with continuous records of water level. Periodically throughout the year we measure the flow rate of these creeks. This allows us to match flow to level and gives us a yearly flow rate estimate. These are done by a separate team lead by Mike Mesford and specifically trained for this procedure. Since doing transects involves entering the creek, helmets and waders/wetsuits are worn, and specific safety training is provided. Mike can be reached through firstname.lastname@example.org.
A recent addition to our sampling protocol is the addition of water collection for 6PPD-quinone testing. This is a by-product of vehicle tire breakdown that collects on roadways and washes into streams during heavy rainfall. The contaminant is highly toxic to fish.
We have only collected samples for 6PPD-quinone twice during the Fall 2022 rainfalls, but already have samples that tested positive for the contaminant. The sampling program is likely to expand.
This work is done as part of Dave Weaver’s Watershed Health Report Card project.
The project assesses the impact of logging on selected watersheds in the Beaufort Range. By assessing the area logged and the degree of regrowth, a calculation of equivalent clearcut area can be determined. This gives an indicator of whether the rate of harvest is sustainable, and how great the impact may be on watersheds’ hydrology. The first report was released in fall 2021. Data will be collected for another large watershed in the summer of 2023.
Under the leadership of Mike Mesford, BWS monitors the height of several private and public wells within our catchment area. Continuous monitoring devices are placed in the well, and data are downloaded monthly. Well owners receive a copy of their well data. These data are used to learn how our aquifer responds to droughts and to rainfall. The data will also be used as part of the aquifer mapping project. New wells will be added in geographically strategic locations to aid in the aquifer mapping.
The residents and corporations located on the eastern slopes of the Beaufort Range mostly rely on well water from shallow glacial drift aquifers. No recent mapping has been done to determine the extent, depth, quality, interconnectedness and stability of these shallow aquifers north of Bowser. We simply do not know the size of our water supply and the degree to which it is threatened.
BWS has undertaken the work of making these estimates through detailed aquifer mapping. Under the leadership of Mark Lake, BWS is collaborating with the faculty and students at both University of Victoria (UVic) and Vancouver Island University (VIU).
Aquifer mapping involves the co-ordination and integration of many different types of data: hydrogeology, geophysics, water wells, mining test wells, topography, hydrography, to name a few.
BWS are utilising a geophysical technique known as Vertical Electric Soundings (VES). VES are being done in collaboration with UVic, and data collection occurs over an intensive week each summer. The usual VES practice in the field is to apply an electrical current between two electrodes implanted in the ground and to measure the difference of potential between two additional electrodes that do not carry current. By increasing the spacing between the electrodes, the depth of penetration is increased, hence the expression Vertical Electric Sounding (VES). This is repeated at 10-12 sites over the course of the data collection week. The data provide estimates of aquifer geology (sediment, clay, rock, bedrock, brackish water) down to a depth of around 80m in the sampled areas.
These resistivity data will be combined with well height data, already existing well data and geological maps to provide an estimate of our aquifer sizes, thicknesses and quality. This in turn will yield an estimate of the volume of groundwater available to the residents of the eastern Beaufort Watersheds. The mapping is done using ArcGIS (Geographic Information Systems) software. We are extremely fortunate to have a practicum student from VIU working on the GIS mapping for three months in 2023.