CreekWatch

About the CreekWatch Program

With the help of the HSBC Water Programme, RiverWatch Institute of Alberta has undertaken an initiative to develop an Urban Tributary Monitoring and Stewardship (UTMS) Project.

Volunteers and RiverWatch staff collect weekly data at walk-in sites along creeks entering the rivers flowing through Calgary and Edmonton. Data comparisons help highlight urban impact upon our creeks throughout the open water season March-October.

HSBC is investing US $150,000 over two years (2014 – 2016) to support CreekWatch. Set on urban tributaries in Edmonton and Calgary, the program takes a Citizen Science approach on water quality data collection and monitoring.

CreekWatch Monitoring Plan

CreekWatch is aimed at creating a knowledgeable public in Alberta that is able to understand science-based management of urban rivers and streams. Many people have no idea how their actions impact the water quality of our rivers and streams, nor how they can help.

A large part of the project is connecting volunteers to the outdoors, increasing environmental knowledge, and providing participants with a means to make a stewardship difference in their community.

Most urban creek monitoring is done during high flow wet events on limited budgets with limited manpower.

  • The City of Calgary Water Resources monitors 30 stations established on rivers, streams, and reservoirs in the Calgary region on a monthly basis.
  • In Edmonton, efforts are focused on times of high flow. During 2014, a total of two samples were collected from each of the Edmonton urban tributaries - one was collected during the spring runoff, the other during a summer rainfall event. The 2013 NSR Report emphasized recommendations on increased tributary sampling efforts for more accurate and apparent trends from a larger dataset.

The purpose of the CreekWatch is to collect frequent and reputable data on urban tributaries that feed our larger rivers in Alberta. Through such data collection, a consistent baseline set of information will be established and shared with all stakeholders.

Acknowledging the budget and manpower constraints in each major Alberta city, CreekWatch resources are used to collect frequent and reputable data on urban tributaries that feed our larger rivers in Alberta. Through the program, a consistent baseline set of information can be established. This information can then be used by officials within each city, as well as made publicly available to citizens.

The chart below depicts what physical and chemical parameters will be measured at each level of monitoring.

CreekWatch is aimed at creating a knowledgeable public in Alberta that is able to understand science-based management of urban rivers and streams. Many people have no idea how their actions impact the water quality of our rivers and streams, nor how they can help.

A large part of the project is connecting volunteers to the outdoors, increasing environmental knowledge, and providing participants with a means to make a stewardship difference in their community.

CreekWatch is aimed at creating a knowledgeable public in Alberta that is able to understand science-based management of urban rivers and streams. Many people have no idea how their actions impact the water quality of our rivers and streams, nor how they can help.

A large part of the project is connecting volunteers to the outdoors, increasing environmental knowledge, and providing participants with a means to make a stewardship difference in their community.

A unique element of CreekWatch is the comparison of three different levels of monitoring technology. There are advantages and disadvantages associated with each type of monitoring that include:

  1. Instrument complexity
  2. Overall sampling technique cost
  3. Calibration and equipment maintenance
  4. Technique accuracy
  5. Replacement costs of damaged equipment
  6. Transportability

Through the use of three different levels of monitoring, a comparison will be available between each of the techniques. This will offer valuable insight into the degrees of accuracy of each technique. Noting that lab analysis will be the most accurate and most expensive, a limited comparison will determine the realistic feasibility of using less expensive manual and electronic water quality monitoring equipment to acquire accurate and presentable data.

Each volunteer completes a data sheet and then enters that data on-line at the completion of each monitoring event.

  • The hard copy information is collected by the Citizen Science Coordinator at season’s end and stored
  • Volunteers are trained on how to input data to the website

This website www.riverwatch.ab.ca hosts a data input and graphing platform. The creation of a database for water quality data is an essential component of CreekWatch, allowing for ease of data collection, input, and synthesis amongst citizen science volunteers. Data and data graphing is available for immediate viewing, allowing for trend analysis and comparison over time. Information is available publicly on the website.

At the conclusion of each open-water sampling season, reports are written detailing the specific outcomes and trends that can be identified throughout that year. Reports are made publicly available.

Sampling sites will involve urban tributaries of the North Saskatchewan River in Edmonton and the Bow River in Calgary.


Edmonton Creek Profiles

Mill Creek

Mill Creek flows through south central Edmonton before entering the North Saskatchewan River. Named after a flourmill established in 1878 near the creek’s mouth, it enters Edmonton’s City limits through passing beneath Anthony Henday Drive. It eventually opens up into Mill Creek Ravine that offers scenic views and hiking opportunities within the bustling city of Edmonton. Sections of the creek are engineered underground to accommodate City infrastructure, and this includes the final section of the creek that enters the North Saskatchewan River through a raised culvert. The City of Edmonton is currently exploring the potential of resurfacing the north portion of the creek.

Whitemud Creek

Whitemud Creek is a major tributary of the North Saskatchewan River and provides many vital terrestrial and aquatic ecological functions in the southwest portion of Edmonton. Whitemud Creek was named during the Palliser Expedition for the white-coloured mud along the creek’s banks. The ravine provides ample opportunity for hiking and interactions with nature through old growth coniferous forests, deciduous and mixed-wood forests, meadows, and riparian communities.

Blackmud Creek

The headwaters of Blackmud Creek are located near the town of Nisku. It meanders north, crossing Highway 2 before entering the Edmonton city limits. Within the City limits, Blackmud Creek offers ample opportunities to enjoy nature through interactions made available at numerous urban parks. The eventual confluence is located in Mactaggart Sanctuary where it joins Whitemud Creek before traveling the final distance to the North Saskatchewan River.

Calgary Creek Profiles


Nose Creek

Nose Creek’s headwaters extend all the way through the northern reaches of Rocky View County and into Mountain View County. Covering such a large geographical area at roughly 75 kilometers in length, there are many different land uses that have the potential to impact the creek. The land coverage is primarily agricultural, with urban influences as it travels through the town of Crossfield, and the cities of Airdrie and Calgary. It final stretch travels past the Calgary Zoo before reaching the Bow River.

West Nose Creek

West Nose Creek is a significant and permanent tributary to Nose Creek that drains a third of the entire Nose Creek Watershed. Originating in the northwestern portion of the watershed, it travels 65 kilometers before joining Nose Creek near the Calgary International Airport.

Fish Creek

Fish Creek originates in Kananaskis Country before traveling east through Tsuu T’ina First Nation and then ultimately reaching Calgary before entering the Bow River. The upper sections of Fish Creek are primarily forested, while the middle section is more agricultural and grassland coverage, and urban land use is more prominent near the creek mouth. The lower portion also receives stormwater discharge from the City of Calgary’s encompassing residential neighborhoods. Within Calgary’s city limits, Fish Creek is popularly known as the largest urban park in Canada, stretching 19 kilometers from east to west. Offering a variety of trail networks for walking, biking, or hiking, the park offers an easily accessible urban resource.

A unique element of this project will be the comparison of three different levels of monitoring techniques. There are advantages and disadvantages associated with each type of monitoring that include:

  • Instrument complexity
  • Overall sampling technique cost
  • Calibration and equipment maintenance
  • Technique accuracy and precision
  • Replacement costs of damaged equipment
  • Transportability

Through the collection of three different levels of monitoring, a comparison will be available between each of the techniques. This will offer valuable insight into the degrees of accuracy between each technique. Noting that lab analysis will be the most accurate and most expensive, a comparison will determine the realistic feasibility of using manual and electronic water quality monitoring equipment to acquire accurate and presentable data.

Water sampling will be completed during the open-water season in Alberta, from May-October. The goal each year is to train 10 volunteer citizen scientists in Edmonton, and 10 in Calgary.

Our trained volunteers will collect Level One data using standard equipment. This will involve the use of manual Hach kits that are housed in wheeled coolers for ease of transport and access. We are expecting each individual to collect data on their own free time at least 7 times throughout the open-water season.

Level Two data will be collected on a weekly basis between May-October by a Citizen Science Coordinator in both Edmonton and Calgary. This will involve professional electronic measuring equipment purchased from Hoskin Scientific Ltd.

The details of collecting Level Three data have not been finalized, but hopes would be to submit lab samples at minimum

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