Overview of Okanagan Water Quality Studies and Monitoring
There are many agencies and groups who monitor water quality in the Okanagan. This list isn’t exhaustive, but provides links to websites and reports on water quality information.
Environment Canada (EC) has a water quality buoy on Osoyoos Lake. They have three sites (Okanagan River/Oliver, Equesis and BX) where they do macroinvertebrate monitoring as indicators of stream health – the CABIN program. A separate group is sampling 5-10 sites a year for pharmaceuticals, and has also done some pesticide testing. They are also testing Mill Creek and Osoyoos Lake for Bisphenol A, perfluorinated compounds and Triclosan.
- EC Online Data
- EC Interactive Indicator Maps
- EC Environmental Monitoring and Surveillance
- Report: Perfluoroalkyl acids in the Canadian environment
The BC Ministry of Environment does twice-yearly water quality trend monitoring in Ellison, Wood, Kalamalka, Okanagan, Skaha and Osoyoos, and monthly sampling at the outlets of Coldstream, Mission and Shingle Creeks. They do “extensive seasonal monitoring” at Armstrong Arm, Okanagan Centre, Kelowna, and Summerland. They develop water quality objectives for streams, and report on the attainment of these objectives every 5-7 years (Kelowna area creeks, Coldstream creek, Vernon area and Westbank/Peachland area creeks, Okanagan Lake, and Osoyoos Lake (first year of sampling was 2015); objectives are being developed for Wood Lake and Penticton area creeks. Water chemistry results are publicly available and stored on the Environmental Monitoring System (EMS). Any other specific water quality reports are uploaded to the ECOCAT online database.
- Report: Water Quality Assessment and Objectives for Osoyoos Lake
- Report: Okanagan Lake Collaborative Monitoring Agreement 2011-2014 Sampling Program Synthesis Report
- Hullcar Valley:
The BC Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations (FLNRO – Groundwater) operates two groundwater quality monitoring networks: the Provincial Observation Well Network and the Ambient Groundwater Quality Monitoring Network (in Osoyoos, Oliver, Hullcar, and Eagle Rock areas), sampled annually. The overall goals of these Networks are to characterize the water chemistry of the aquifer, identify any parameter that exceeds health standards or is trending in a direction that would impact human or ecosystem health, and help raise awareness about the link between land use practices and water quality.
- Report: Review of Ambient Groundwater Monitoring Networks in the Okanagan Kootenay Region
- Interactive Map: BC Groundwater Observation Wells
Interior Health (IH) tests water quality samples collected by beach owners, and provides information on E. Coli levels. These data determine whether the beach should be closed by the owner, and are also provided as green-yellow-red information on websites like the (independently operated) Riverkeeper’s Swim Guide. Beaches on Osoyoos Lake include: Cottonwood Park, Gyro, Haynes Point, and Legion Beach. They are tested approximately weekly.
Water Suppliers collect data on raw water samples at their intakes, primarily bacterial and turbidity sampling, but also regular tests on water chemistry. This is the most complete and detailed source of water quality monitoring. Large utilities maintain their own data. IH stores data for small water systems. Many local governments also have reports on Stormwater, like this chapter from West Kelowna’s Master Water Plan.
Okanagan Nation Alliance collects water quality samples for phytoplankton, zooplankton, Mysis, water chemistry, and physical properties to support their fisheries work on Osoyoos and Skaha Lakes, sampling several times a year. In 2006 and 2008, they did studies with Health Canada on contaminants in food fish (burbot, whitefish, trout). Contaminants tested for included: mercury, lead, arsenic, DDT, PCB’s, PDBE’s, and other pesticides. Trace contaminants were found in all samples, but none above recommended consumption levels.
- Report: Contaminants in Okanagan Fish: Recent Analyses and Review of Historic Data
- Report: Additional Testing for Contaminants in Fish Used by First Nation Members in the Okanagan Basin
- Website: Okanagan Nation Alliance www.syilx.org
UBCO led a project to study sediment cores in Osoyoos Lake in 2008 (report dated 2009), establishing the historical nutrient conditions. Researchers at the university continue to do work on endocrine disrupters, although they’ve not yet received any large research grants to support this work. Dr. Cigdem Eskicioglu, an Associate Professor of Engineering at UBCO, has set up her biosolids research lab to test for endocrine disrupters, steroids, and other markers of pharmaceuticals and personal care products, and most recently sampled from Okanagan Falls wastewater treatment plant effluent and the Okanagan river in August 2015.
- Endocrine-Disrupting compounds in water in the Okanagan
- Honours Thesis: Hydrogeochemistry of the Kelowna Aquifer System (2013)
Dr. Jeff Curtis and his grad student are doing a study on the cycle and fate of nitrogen and phosphorus in effluent irrigation from the Vernon treatment plant.
WWF (World Wildlife Fund) Canada is “taking the pulse of Canada’s rivers” with a Canada-wide assessment of the country’s watersheds, focusing on four indicators of river health and seven key threats.
The Regional District of North Okanagan (RDNO) has completed a preliminary water quality report on Swan Lake, which is located north of Vernon and south of Spallumcheen, mostly within Electoral Area “B”.
Osoyoos Lake Water Quality Society has a 30-year water quality data set, monitoring weekly from May to October. They test for temperature, depth, dissolved oxygen, pH, specific conductivity, and water clarity. The Society also notes changes such as excessive milfoil, algae blooms, and dead fish; they check the condition of the stormwater outflow pipes; and also monitor and report changes to the lakeshore such as the removal of riparian trees, and shrubs; and construction of walls and buildings within the high water mark (illegal without special permits from the Ministry).
- Report: Assessment of the changes in trophic state of Osoyoos Lake, B.C.: A Paleolimnological Assessment.
- Slideshow: Powerpoint presentation of Assessment of the changes in trophic state of Osoyoos Lake, B.C.: A Paleolimnological Assessment.
Lake Osoyoos Association does bi-monthly testing from June-Septembers at four locations from the international border to the mouth of the Okanagan River. They test for temperature, specific conductance, pH, dissolved oxygen, chlorophyll, and water clarity.
Heather Larratt, of Larratt Aquatic Consulting does water quality monitoring and project-specific sampling for many water utilities, local governments, and industry in the Okanagan, BC. She’s known as a local go-to person for blue-green algae testing, and also maintains data sets for clients.
International Osoyoos Lake Board of Control sponsored a report on the water quality of Osoyoos Lake, as part of the 2013 renewal of their Zosel Dam operating orders.
The Ministry of Health and provincial health authorities have a website on drinking water quality, and how it is protected. This is mainly geared toward the regulation of water suppliers, but also provides links to plans, reports, and regulation:
The Washington Department of Ecology has a Water Quality Improvement Project for the Okanogan River, which is part of the implementation plan of a Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL) regulation under the EPA’s Clean Water Act. The waters don’t meet health criteria for DDT and PCBs in edible fish. The TMDL was established in 2005, and Ecology will be monitoring through 2015.
- Water Resource Area Inventory 49 – Okanogan
- Northwest Toxic Algae – freshwater algae bloom monitoring program in Washington state
- Report: Okanogan River Tributaries pH 303(d) Listing Verification Study
- Report: Lower Okanogan River Basin, DDT and PCB, Total Maximum Daily Load, Water Quality Effectiveness Monitoring Report
- Report: Lower Okanogan River Fish Consumption Advisory 2011