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Updates from your Watershed Steward

Upper Kiskatinaw Drinking Water Quality Risk Assessment Project

Water Source Protection Goals and Background Information

The City of Dawson Creek has undertaken several water management and planning initiatives over the years, including research through implementation of its Watershed Stewardship Program in 2009. This new project – the Upper Kiskatinaw Drinking Water Quality Risk Assessment will be done over the next year is intended to serve as an update to the Source Water Protection Plan and to be consistent with and supportive of the bylaws, plans, policies, and initiatives related to Water Management at the City. Relevant reports are listed below and on the City’s online Watershed Reports:

(http://www.dawsoncreek.ca/cityhall/departments/water/watershed/background-watershed-management-plans/)

  • Kiskatinaw River Integrated Water Management Plan (1991)
  • Kiskatinaw River Watershed Management Plan (2003)
  • Assessment of the City of Dawson Creek’s Drinking Water Supply (Kiskatinaw River):

Source Water Characteristics (2003)

  • Kiskatinaw River Watershed Source Protection Plan (2007)
  • Cumulative Effects Assessment and Case Study Assessment (2011)
  • Watershed Stewardship Program Annual Report (2012)
  • Going Forward in Watershed Stewardship in the Upper Kiskatinaw River: A Summary of Implementation Progress (Jan 2012)

and all related background reports and studies, such as

Water Protection Challenges

 Water stewardship for the City of Dawson Creek has had its challenges over the years given the variable flows and quality conditions in the Kiskatinaw River.

As part of an effort to better manage resource development, the City has been involved in various planning and research efforts over the past twenty years. In preparing its Watershed Management and Source Water Protection Plans, (SWPP) various water supply and quality management issues have been identified and tracked. The current water quality risk assessment developed for the 2007 SWPP is presented in a table extracted from that report (Water Quality Assessment 2007).

The source water quality in the Kiskatinaw River is naturally poor due to high turbidity and suspended sediment load. It is not unusual for turbidity to exceed 2,000 NTU- at times during the period from April through September. The recommended turbidity level for raw water used for drinking water supply is 1 NTU. Other issues related to water quality include pathogens, agricultural and other industrial chemicals. Of particular note are risks posed by gas/oil well-drilling (transport, storage, and land-disposal) operations that have greatly expanded and situated directly within, or proximate to the Kiskatinaw River or tributaries. The range of development and oil and gas waste materials represent a potential hazard to drinking water during major weather events (e.g. 2011 flood or during other peak flow periods) or from operational failure. Similar concerns have been expressed as part of the current Oil and Gas Activities in North-East BC: Human Health Risk Assessment, and the forthcoming phase II results will be identifying key regional risks for domestic drinking water supplies and any management/policy implications. It is hoped that interim results of this work can be used to guide assessment of water quality risks in the Upper Kiskatinaw River watershed.

To help manage present and future risks on drinking water quality, the City maintains an ongoing water quality assessment for both sediment and water quality for a wide range of detectable chemical constituents both at its intake and upstream. Watershed and raw-water intake sampling have not shown elevated levels of chemical constituents exceeding maximum allowable levels according to Canadian Drinking Water Standards. In instances where such levels may exceed Maximum Allowable Limits, the City is required to advise provincial regulatory authorities who are responsible for detecting possible contaminant sources and ensuring remediation.

In addition to water quality management, the City is also concerned about water quantity. Low flows during the summer and in the late winter represent additional concerns due to potential for increased contaminant concentrations should any form of upstream spill concern. Lower level, non-point source contaminants representing a possible cumulative water quality impact is possible, particularly given the extent of upstream industrial operation, unknown contaminant pathways, and the fact that sampling for such possible contaminants is only performed on a periodic basis.

The Kiskatinaw River is the only water supply source for the City of Dawson Creek. To date, there has been no other feasible source of surface water or groundwater in the vicinity identified that the City can access. Alternative supply options are being considered as a component of the City’s current SureWater Campaign. The City’s Domestic Water Supply Area is not yet designated as a Community Watershed, due its large size and limitations under the Forest and Range Protection Act, which has been a matter of interest to the City for some time. There continues to be interest in pursuing discussions with MoE on this matter, to have at least the Upper Kiskatinaw designated. For example, this could include listing it as a “designated watershed” by the Minister of Environment (MoE) under the Environmental Management and Protection Regulation, Sec 35 of the Oil Gas Activities Act.