Watershed Monitoring

Monitoring Kootenay Lake’s tributaries using the CABIN Water Quality Monitoring Protocol


Project Rationale

In February 2017, Columbia Basin Trust (CBT) released a report “Water Monitoring and Climate in the Upper Columbia Basin, Summary of Current Status and Opportunities”, outlining the current state of knowledge of water quality and quantity in the Columbia Basin. The research – led by Dr. Martin Carver – revealed that Columbia Basin water data is inadequate for managing and protecting the region’s water resources in response to climate change. The report made it clear that it is critical that we begin to fill data gaps to improve our knowledge of water quality in the Basin.

Friends of Kootenay Lake responded to this need by developing our three-year Watershed Monitoring Program. This program utilizes the Canadian Aquatic Biomonitoring Inventory Network (CABIN) national water quality monitoring protocol to assess water quality through the collection and analysis of macroinvertebrate aquatic insect populations. Through this program, we offer free annual CABIN training to interested community members (Figure 1). Trained volunteers are then invited to attend monitoring trips. This program will create a network of informed citizens and increase our capacity to monitor our watershed.

Figure 1: 2020 CABIN training

Study Area

Monitoring takes place within select tributaries of Kootenay Lake’s West Arm on privately owned land. In 2020 we monitored six streams (Figure 2). In 2021, we are planning to add another six streams to our monitoring plan.

Figure 2: Streams monitored in 2020

Study Design

We utilized geographic information systems (GIS) to assess various disturbance regimes within each watershed of Kootenay Lake’s west arm tributaries. Layers such as harvested cutblocks, mining permits and tenures, water licenses, residences, land ownership and roads were overlain over watershed polygons. Geoprocessing tools were used to quantify the area of harvested forest and mining tenures, the length of roads and the number of water licenses and residences within each watershed. Disturbance information helped us to determine high priority streams for monitoring and develop a monitoring plana and study design.

Monitoring Methods

With a well-rounded study design in place, monitoring can commence. Monitoring occurs during the late summer and early fall within rifle-pool stream reaches. The standardized CABIN monitoring protocol is performed within each stream, which generally includes a detailed site description and drawing, and the collection of kick-net macroinvertebrate samples and water quality samples. Technicians perform a three-minute kicking exercise, dislodging macroinvertebrates from the stream substrate, and catching them within a specialized net. Samples are then preserved and sent to a taxonomist for identification. Water quality samples are sent to a laboratory for assessment.

Monitoring Results

All monitoring results will be uploaded annually to the Columbia Basin Water Hub, as well as the National CABIN database where it will be free to the public and easily accessible.

Why This Work Is Important

Education programs like these create a sense of leadership within community groups and offer them the chance to learn a new skill that will allow them to be active in local water stewardship. Citizen scientist monitoring and CBM is emerging across Canada as an untapped potential to help solve pressing challenges associated with watershed management. Long-term monitoring will help inform climate change adaptation modeling. This, in turn, will provide communities the ability to become more climate-resilient by understanding impacts to their changing watershed ecosystems, and potentially allow for increased protection and sustainable use of Canada’s most precious resource.

Thank you to our funders