Watershed and Source Water Protection Programs
EPCOR’s Watershed Protection Program (wpp) has two primary goals:
- To provide a safe, secure drinking water supply through source water protection principles
To ensure minimal effects from our operations on water quality and aquatic ecosystem health in receiving water bodies
EPCOR recognizes watershed-wide environmental planning is necessary and is best achieved by openly collaborating with all stakeholders. In 2015, epcor updated its three-year rolling Strategic Watershed Protection plan and completed initiatives under four broad categories: watershed planning, monitoring and research, implementation, and education and awareness.
1. Watershed Planning
EPCOR recognizes the importance of working within multiple initiatives and/or frameworks to help meet its commitment to safeguard the health of customers from a source water protection perspective and to minimize the effect of its activities on local water quality and aquatic ecosystems. Planning initiatives and/or frameworks that EPCOR continued to support in 2015 include:
- North Saskatchewan Watershed Alliance (NSWA): EPCOR provides both financial and in-kind support to the NSWA. In 2012, the NSWA published the
- Integrated Watershed Management Plan (IWMP) for the North Saskatchewan Basin after five years of extensive stakeholder engagement and input. The plan lays out recommendations and an approach to manage the North Saskatchewan River watershed, sustain water resources for the long-term and to meet the three strategic goals of alberta’s water for life strategy. The underlying principle of the plan is that no further degradation of water quality should occur and improvements should be made where degradation has occurred, based on water quality objectives proposed for the river. In 2015, EPCOR employees were involved in the IWMP implementation committee and the water quality and instream flow needs working groups of the NSWA. As well, EPCOR was represented on the board of directors of the nswa and is part of the headwaters group;
- Capital Region-Industrial Heartland Water Management Framework (CRIH-WMF): the Government of Alberta led CRIH-WMF continued through 2015 and EPCOR was directly involved through the advisory committee. This work will set environmental outcomes (including water quality) for the area just upstream of Edmonton to downstream of the proposed industrial development area. The framework includes Maximum Acceptable Loads (MALs) for each of the parameters of concern which is now under stakeholder review;
- A Regional Plan under the Land Use Framework for the North Saskatchewan River is scheduled to be released in the fall of 2016. In 2014, EPCOR participated in the phase one consultation workshops for the North Saskatchewan Regional Plan and in 2015, participated on the Environmental Quality Management Framework stakeholder engagement sessions;
- Source Water Protection Plan: A major milestone of 2014 was the completion and publication of EPCOR’s updated Source Water Protection Plan (SWPP) protecting source drinking water. Highlights of the updated plan include detailed water quality and quantity research summaries, comprehensive land use maps, and inclusion of the source risk assessment completed through the Drinking Water Safety Plan process. In 2015, continued investigation and mitigation plans of the key risks outlined in the SWPP were developed. Two of the most significant risks (potential source contamination from spills/releases from upstream oil and gas facilities, or from a spill on an upstream bridge) remained action items in the Drinking Water Safety Plan. As such, work is underway to develop a Geographic Response Plan in partnership with AEP; and
- Alberta Water Council (AWC): EPCOR, through representation on Watershed Planning and Advisory Councils and the Alberta Lake Management Society, is involved with numerous teams that are making recommendations for management and policy to the AWC and, ultimately, AEP. In 2015, EPCOR continued involvement with the development of a statement of opportunities for Source Water Protection Planning and Lake Conservation and Management. As well an EPCOR employee acted as an alternate board member for the AWC Board, representing the Lake Conservation Sector.
In 2015, EPCOR continued financial support of the Clear Water Landcare Group which implements agricultural Beneficial Management Practices (BMPs) in the North Saskatchewan River basin, such as ‘off stream’ watering systems and fencing off of streams. EPCOR also supported the Alberta Low Impact Development Partnership (ALIDP) through corporate sponsorship. The goal of ALIDP is to reduce urban land use effects on North Saskatchewan River habitat degradation, water quality and ecological health.
3. Research and Monitoring
In 2015, EPCOR continued an enhanced monitoring program for thirteen select tributaries upstream of Edmonton. As part of an effort to better characterize water quality in the headwaters, Clearwater Land Care took additional samples during storm events as data for high flow events were sparse. As part of this work, a pilot project on Strawberry Creek was initiated and more frequent and widespread sampling was completed on the creek (at 11 locations) in an effort to understand water quality drivers on a smaller scale. This multi-year project on a sub-watershed that experiences intensive agricultural activity will provide information on the effectiveness of best management practices. In 2015, this work included community watershed workshops in Strawberry Creek where EPCOR presented water quality data and showed stakeholders how to complete water quality sampling and riparian assessments.
EPCOR also partnered with the Alberta Biodiversity Monitoring Institute to develop an ecosystem services model for the NSR watershed and, in particular, Strawberry Creek.
EPCOR also continued to partner with the City of Edmonton to support their Environmental Monitoring Program (EMP) through assessment of water quality samples and assistance in monitoring plan development. Quarterly monitoring also continued for Pharmaceuticals and Personal Care Products (PPCP) in the raw and treated water at both the E. L. Smith and Rossdale Water Treatment Plants. As well as providing information relevant to drinking water quality and public health protection, this monitoring program also provided environmental water quality data that was useful for the Capital Region - Industrial Heartland Water Management Framework.
Ongoing assessment and refinement of monitoring programs continued through the NSR Water Quality and Aquatic Ecosystem Health Monitoring Group in partnership with the NSWA. This group’s goal is to develop an integrated, efficient and effective water quality monitoring program that meets the needs and interests of major stakeholders in the basin. In 2015 the focus of the work was to take the integrated watershed monitoring plan and work with AEMERA (Alberta Environmental Monitoring, Evaluation and Reporting Agency) to implement the program, through a sustainable funding program.
4. Education and Public Awareness
In 2015, EPCOR sponsored the City of Edmonton’s River Valley Clean Up Project, participated in the City of Edmonton’s River for Life initiative and supported RiverWatch. EPCOR is a long-time sponsor of the City of Edmonton’s River Valley Clean Up as funding is specifically targeted towards public education initiatives that keep garbage and debris out of the North Saskatchewan River. EPCOR provides financial support to Alberta RiverWatch, a science education program for secondary students. As a corporate sponsor, EPCOR subsidizes the fees for disadvantaged students so that they can participate in a guided river-study along the North Saskatchewan River. EPCOR staff also served on the Board of Directors for the Alberta Lake Management Society and Red Deer Watershed Alliance (RDWA).
EPCOR employees spoke at the Bow River Basin Council quarterly forum, the RDWA’s Public Lake Days forum, the NSWA’s Headwaters Meeting, and gave several other conference/workshop presentations on Source Water Protection including one for the Mighty Peace Watershed Alliance. As well, EPCOR gave its sixth annual guest lecture at the University of Alberta to engineering students on watershed and land use management.