Community-Based Water Quality Monitoring in the Northwest Territories

Regions: Inuvialuit Settlement Region, Gwich'in Settlement Area, Sahtu Settlement Area, Dehcho Region, North Slave Region, South Slave Region

Tags: contaminants, water quality, metals, community based monitoring

Principal Investigator: Kelly, Erin (3)
Licence Number: 15598
Organization: Government of the Northwest Territories
Licenced Year(s): 2018 2017 2016 2015 2014 2013
Issued: Feb 12, 2015

Objective(s): To collect water quality data to answer community concerns and questions about the health of NWT waters, to enhance understanding of cumulative impacts and to contribute to decision making.

Project Description: The purpose of the project is to work in collaboration with NWT communities to collect water quality data to answer community concerns and questions about the health of NWT waters, to enhance understanding of cumulative impacts and to contribute to decision making. There are three associated objectives:
1) to collect water quality data at locations throughout the NWT, to assess for trends in total and dissolved metals, presence of hydrocarbons and basic water quality parameters;
2) to compare water quality at sites throughout the NWT; and,
3) to increase community-capacity for engagement in water monitoring, as mandated under the NWT Water Stewardship Strategy.

This is done through training and partnerships between Environment and Natural Resources (ENR) staff and community members and partner agencies to deploy equipment. Additionally, community members and partner agencies will undertake some sampling on their own, following training from ENR staff. This helps to build capacity towards the goal of having communities lead their own yearly water monitoring programs.

Site selection: Final sites will be chosen with community involvement. Sites will be assessed on a yearly basis for continued inclusion; sites may be added removed as necessary, depending on community concern, results, new development, and feasibility. Based on feedback from community partners, winter time and event sampling (e.g. spring melt, flooding etc.) may be added at the request of community partners.

Recruitment, Training and Participation in Monitoring: Community members will be chosen by community organizations. Community members in each community will be trained on preparation, use, deployment and retrieval of monitoring equipment. Community members will travel to sites with ENR staff to deploy and retrieve equipment.

Data Collection: At each site, 4 types of water quality equipment will be used: diffusion gradient in thin films, polyethylene membrane devices, YSI sondes and grab water samples. Sampling methods are described below. Samples will be taken 1-2 times per month at each site for the duration of the ice-free season.

Sampling Methods:
Diffusive Gradients in Thin-films passive samplers (DGTs) - passive sampler for dissolved metals. DGTs are deployed on a mooring within the top 1m of the surface water column, completely submerged underwater, and retrieved within 2-7 days after deployment.
• Parameters measured: dissolved trace metals, vanadium, and methyl mercury.
• Trent University will be sent the samples for analysis.

Polyethylene Membrane Devices (PMDs) – passive sampler for hydrocarbons. PMDs are deployed on a mooring, 1 m below a DGT sampler to avoid cross-contamination. Duration of deployment for up to 30 days.
• Parameters: dissolved polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs)
• Samples can be archived for long term storage for future analysis if the need arises.
• PMDs are sent to University of Alberta for analysis.

YSI 6600 water quality equipment – Deployed on a mooring for up to 30 days. Collect continuous data measurements at 2 hour intervals.
• Parameters: temperature, conductivity, dissolved oxygen, turbidity, chlorophyll, pH, and oxidation/reduction potential.

Water grab samples – grab samples will be taken at each site following Taiga Environmental Lab protocols. Samples are sent to Taiga Labs for analysis.
• Parameters:
-Physicals: Alkalinity, Total Dissolved Solids, Total Suspended Sediments, pH, Specific Conductivity, Turbidity
-Nutrients: Ammonia, Dissolved Nitrogen, Total Nitrogen, Dissolved Organic Carbon, Total Organic Carbon, Dissolved Phosphorous, Total Phosphorous
-Major Ions: Calcium, Chloride, Fluoride, Magnesium, Nitrate, Nitrite, Potassium, Sodium, Sulphate
-Organics: Chlorophyll
-Dissolved and Total metals: Aluminum, Antimony, Arsenic, Barium, Beryllium, Cadmium, Cesium, Chromium, Cobalt, Copper, Iron, Lead, Lithium, Manganese, Mercury, Molybdenum, Nickel, Rubidium, Selenium, Silver, Strontium, Thallium, Titanium, Uranium, Vanadium, Zinc

Community- and partner agency-led deployment: Following training and 1 to 2 cycles of deployment with ENR staff, community members and partner agencies will lead deployment and retrieval of grab water samples and passive samplers at locations in their regions, between 1 and 3 times per month, and ship samples to ENR headquarters in Yellowknife for processing and analysis. ENR is available to support partners through this process, and may periodically visit communities during the field season.

Analysis: Results from labs are sent back to ENR, who will compile all of the results from each site, compare results from within sites (i.e. from different types of equipment) and across sites to assess local and regional trends and/or changes in water quality. Copies of data (raw and analyzed) will be given to community organizations.

Results reporting: Results are provided to communities first, prior to use/release elsewhere. Results may be reported using a number of feedback mechanisms, including community and regional meetings, meeting with key organizational leadership, public open houses, plain language summary documents, local radio, etc.

The fieldwork for this study will be conducted from February 11, 2015 to December 31, 2015.