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: physical sciences, contaminants, water quality, metals, community based monitoring

Principal Investigator: Beveridge, Meghan (2)
Licence Number: 15814
Organization: Government of the Northwest Territories-Environment and Natural Resources
Licenced Year(s): 2018 2017 2016 2015 2014 2013
Issued: Dec 22, 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; and, 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.

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. 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, must be completely submerged underwater, and must be retrieved within 2-7 days after deployment. Parameters: dissolved trace metals, vanadium, and methyl mercury. DGTs are sent to Trent University in Ontario for analysis.

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

YSI 6600 water quality equipment – calibrated to specific standards by a trained technician. The YSI is deployed on a mooring for up to 30 days. It will 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. The parameters measured are:
-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; and,
-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.

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. 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. Following presentation to communities, results may be released to the wider NWT public through public meeting, media stories and through the NWT Water Stewardship Website.

The fieldwork for this study will be conducted from May 1, 2016 to November 30, 2016.