Rocky View County council will continue to provide funds to the Nose Creek Watershed Partnership (NCWP) to help facilitate ongoing water quality monitoring.
Council committed to providing $15,760 to the NCWP, Jan. 18, $5,760 of the funds will support the organization’s long-term, water-monitoring strategy, subject to 2011 budget deliberations.
“We support the concept of people watching the watershed very closely,” said Reeve Rolly Ashdown. “We feel it is a reasonable cause. We always have to make sure we are being responsible environmentally, so supporting the watersheds in their monitoring and management plans is an important part in our input into the environment.”
The organization is currently in its last year of a three-year water-monitoring program, which will provide data for future decision-makers.
“You can’t take a snapshot of the water quality of the creek to see what is going on in there,” said Chad Willms, Rocky View’s municipal ecologist. “You need the long-term water monitoring. It allows us to make changes in our practices.”
The cities of Calgary and Airdrie and Rocky View County formed the NCWP in 1998. Its membership now extends to Crossfield, the Calgary Airport Authority, Alberta Environment, Trout Unlimited Canada, Ducks Unlimited Canada, Cows and Fish and Alberta Transportation.
Nose Creek originates near the boundary of Rocky View and the Town of Crossfield. It flows south through Airdrie and joins the Bow River near the Calgary Zoo, draining a gross area of 989 square kilometres.
The creek passes through agricultural land, golf courses, residential, commercial and industrial development and is subjected to many negative influences such as fertilizers, pesticides, silt, sediment, bacteria and herbicides.
In total, the partnership tests the water several times a year at 10 sites along Nose Creek and West Nose Creek. It has found the creek contains unacceptable levels of phosphorus, bacteria, salt and sediment.
According to environmental biologist Sandi Riemersma, these contaminants may pose a risk to people and livestock, could affect the growth of crops when the water is used in irrigation and can result in a dirty, algae-prone waterway.
“Nose Creek remains fairly poor in terms of water quality and riparian health,” said Riemersma, who works with the partnership.
“West Nose Creek, the main tributary, has not seen as many pressures…and it has better water quality.”
Despite these high levels, the partnership has found that, since monitoring began in 1980, there has been a decrease in contaminants, which may be partly due to more environmentally-friendly farming practices, riparian buffer zones and education.
“The good news is, preliminary analysis suggests that water quality improvements have been made,” said Riemersma. “We are seeing a trend downward, but concentrations are still above water quality guidelines.”
Willms said there is reason to be positive about the watershed’s future.
“The creek isn’t a complete writeoff,” said Willms, adding that researchers have discovered small pockets of trout in the creek.
“Trout is known for needing a quality environment,” he said. “It gives us hope that what we are doing is having some success. It is a watershed that we need to continue to invest energy and effort into.”