Category Archives: Water Quality Testing

Lake Winnipeg Foundation Community-Based Monitoring 2017 Regional Report for SRRCD May 9th, 2017

Posted in: General Water Quality Testing Watershed Moments

Lake Winnipeg Foundation Community-Based Monitoring 2017 Regional Report for SRRCD

Click here to view the Lake Winnipeg Foundation 2017 report for the Seine-Rat River Conservation District.

Urban Surface Water Management Solutions April 28th, 2017

Posted in: Rain Gardens Water Quality Testing Watershed Moments

Surging surface water runoff and ice-plugged culverts resulting in localized urban flooding frustrated local governments and residents over this year’s spring melt. Water flowing over the concrete landscape of the urban environment also inundated local drainage networks and contributed to rising water levels in response to this year’s unusual rapid melting and freezing temperatures. Heavy equipment urgently worked to clear ice from culverts and ditches as water back flooded over roads and streets of the impervious urban landscape.

The concrete sea of the urban landscape is a vast impermeable surface contributing to massive flows of water runoff. Water that is unable to soak into the ground will quickly flow over asphalt parking lots, roads, rooftops, driveways, sidewalks, and residential streets into the local drainage network and low-lying areas. The amount of impervious surface within a watershed determines how great the change in runoff will be. Surface water runoff will double in areas with 10-20% impervious surface cover and triple in areas with 30-50% impervious surface cover. The majority of all surface water will result in runoff in urban areas with 75-100% impervious surface cover. This means that the process of urbanization dramatically increases surface water runoff because water is prevented from soaking into the soil.

The increasing frequency and severity of short-duration, high precipitation events are also challenging the way we think about sustainable urban surface water management strategies. Today, we are seeing more severe precipitation events in the amount of rain that falls in a storm – even though annual precipitation events are staying the same. This means that multi-day storms are increasing in frequency and extreme precipitation events are becoming more severe and damaging.

The conventional approach to urban surface water management has been to direct runoff into the urban drainage network. While this approach has been successful at removing water from roads and streams, it has contributed to greater stream bank erosion and sediment transport. Urban streams have subsequently been channelized with concrete to push water through the system more efficiently, resulting in increased downstream flooding in the lowland portions of the watershed. The shift away from conventional urban surface water management practices to more innovative and sustainable approaches are essential for mitigating flood risk and building more resilient communities.

Permeable Paving

Permeable paving is a broad term used to describe a diverse range of pavement technologies that allow water to seep through the surface material into a base layer for on-site water infiltration and filtration. Porous paving allows water to move through the surface material while permeable paving directs water around impervious brick pavers and into aggregate material in the joints between pavers.

These innovative paving methods can be utilized for roads, paths, driveways, parking lots, sidewalks, and other surfaces that are subject to light vehicular traffic. They are becoming increasingly popular for reducing runoff in urban centres because they maintain the functionality of a stable, load-bearing surface. Permeable paving systems utilize a wide variety of technologies for increasing soil infiltration capacity, including pervious concrete; porous asphalt; plastic grids; permeable interlocking concrete pavers; and resin bound paving made of recycled materials, such as glass, plastic, and rubber. Permeable paving is an effective strategy for low impact development at the neighbourhood scale. This strategy may be incorporated with innovations at the property scale to further enhance the utility of sustainable surface water management initiatives in urban areas.

Rain Gardens and Bioswales

Rain gardens and bioswales are vegetated with native plant species and are designed to capture and store surface water runoff from impervious surfaces. A rain garden is a bowl-shaped perennial garden planted near drain spouts and sump pump outlets to capture runoff from roofs and low-lying areas. Bioswales are linear systems designed to manage greater volumes of runoff from parking lots or roadways. The size of a rain garden or bioswale is designed according to the impervious surface area where water will be directed into the system. The larger the impervious surface area – the bigger the size of rain garden or bioswale.

Rain garden and bioswale systems provide important environmental benefits at the property scale. They improve water quality as surface water filters into the ground. Nutrients in the water are then taken up by native plant species vegetated in the system. These naturalized surface water management systems also create habitat for birds, bees, butterflies, and other wildlife; they reduce downstream flooding; and beautify residential neighbourhoods.

The Seine-Rat River Conservation District can help you design and create your own rain garden project. We provide funding up to $500 for individual projects, or 50% up to $5,000 for projects located in public spaces. We would be pleased to present on our expanded urban rain garden program at your next community organization meeting.

Naturalized Storm Water Retentions

Naturalized urban storm water retentions are aesthetically pleasing urban design features, which utilize the ecological functions of wetlands to slow high water flows; reduce surface water runoff from urban and semi-urban areas; and mitigate the effects of downstream flooding. Naturalized wetlands improve water quality as they are vegetated with water loving native plant species. Native plant species contribute to a greater biodiversity in the local area, as well as provide natural habitat to a variety of waterfowl and amphibian species. The native plant species of naturalized systems also provide goose deterrence and management by limiting goose access from the water to grazing areas. Native plant root systems penetrate deep into the ground and clean the water as they absorb nutrients, degrade pesticides, retain sediments, and reduce pathogens as water infiltrates back into the soil for groundwater recharge.

Naturalized urban storm water retentions are a cost-effective alternative to conventional retentions because less soil is removed from a site; rock or soil does not need to be imported to a site; construction time is reduced; basin construction can occur during slower times of the year; maintenance of surrounding native grass uplands is a fraction of the cost of maintaining sod; and there is no maintenance required to remove or manage unwanted algal blooms or submersed vegetation. Conventional ponds require long-term algae management because they are susceptible to algal blooms as nutrients slowly build up in the system. Naturalized storm water retentions mitigate flooding risk in urban areas by utilizing the natural ecological functions of wetlands to reduce peak waters flows for sustainable surface water management in urban areas.

Changes in land use and climate show that conventional urban surface water management strategies must be adapted at the property, neighbourhood, and watershed scale in order to mitigate flooding risk resulting from population growth and development. Innovative next-generation technologies and methods, like permeable surfaces, rain gardens, and naturalized storm water retentions are intrinsic to the sustainability of urban surface water management strategies.

Visit our website at for more information about sustainable urban surface water management solutions, including permeable paving, naturalized retentions, and rain gardens.

Backwater Buggin’ for Healthy Waterways January 31st, 2017

Posted in: Environmental Education Water Quality Testing Watershed Moments

The Seine-Rat River Conservation District (SRRCD) is excited to launch Backwater Buggin’ for Healthy Waterways. Backwater Buggin’ is a unique program implemented by the SRRCD in partnership with local schools. District staff help students collect information about the health of river and streams by examining the different types of bug communities that live in our waterways.

Did you know that water bugs can tell us a lot about the health of our waterways? That’s because some kinds of bugs are sensitive to changes in their environment. Pollution in our waterways can affect the abundance and diversity of benthic macro-invertebrate communities. Benthic macro-invertebrates are bottom dwelling bugs with no backbone. They live among the stones, logs, sediments, and plants of freshwater rivers, streams, lakes, and wetlands. They are large enough to see and include species, such as dragonfly and stonefly larvae, snails, worms, and beetles.

Bottom dwelling macro-invertebrates are reliable indicators of the biological health of waterways. They are ideal indicators because they spend all or most of their lives in water, are easy to collect, and differ in their tolerance to pollution. Healthy waterways can support a wide variety and high number of benthic macro-invertebrate species, including many that are less tolerant of pollution. Bug communities with only pollution-tolerant species, or very little abundance and diversity of macro-invertebrate species, may indicate a less healthy waterway.

Backwater Buggin’ is an aquatic biomonitoring program implemented by the SRRCD for collecting samples of benthic macro-invertebrate community compositions in southeast Manitoba. The bug samples we collect are used to establish a baseline for evaluating watershed health by sampling sites under the guidelines established by the Canadian Aquatic Biomonitoring Network (CABIN). The CABIN program is maintained by Environment Canada and allows project partners to take their observations and make a formalized scientific assessment on watershed health using nationally comparable standards. This means that the data we collect through ongoing sampling will be shared with researchers across Canada working to support initiatives that promote healthy watersheds.

Backwater Buggin’ is a comprehensive biomonitoring program incorporating CABIN protocols to test for over a dozen parameters at each sampling site, including nitrogen, phosphorus – and bugs, of course. The high quality data collected through Backwater Buggin’ gives us a better understanding of why our waterways are in the state of health they are in. This data also increases the capacity for communities and local governments to make more informed decisions about sustainable watershed management. The SRRCD will use data collected through this program to guide the implementation of best management practices through existing Conservation District programming for reducing nutrient loading, sedimentation, and loss of functional riparian habitat.

The program also engages the community through public participation to identify and address surface water quality priorities in southeast Manitoba. The program is already generating excitement at Shevchenko School in Vita where junior and high school students are developing a bug library. This reference library of benthic macro-invertebrate specimens is being put together by the Shevchenko School Biomonitoring Group under the supervision of the SRRCD. The library will be maintained by the SRRCD and made publically available to educators and interested groups in the southeast. Students participating in Backwater Buggin’ gain hands-on experience by participating in sample collection and processing. Students also learn an appreciation for science-based water management issues in our region. The reference library also exposes students to practical applications of basic biological principals taught in school.

Backwater Buggin’ for Healthy Watersheds successfully piloted the project at 11 sample sites in the Roseau River watershed with plans to add additional sampling sites throughout the rest of the district. Contact our office in La Broquerie at (204) 424-5845, or in Vita at (204) 425-7877 to learn more about Backwater Buggin’ for Healthy Waterways. You can also visit us online at


Water Quality Testing Shows Need to Build Resilience November 8th, 2015

Posted in: Water Quality Testing Watershed Moments

Water quality testing at the SRRCD

Our water quality testing program at the Seine-Rat River Conservation District (SRRCD) provides information about how land use affects water quality in our district. Our staff go out each year to collect water samples along the Seine River, Rat River, Marsh River, and Joubert Creek. The samples are taken to Winnipeg where they are tested for bacteria and other parameters, like nitrogen and phosphorous.

Phosphorous is an important nutrient for plants, animals, and humans. Human activities, however, are adding excessive phosphorous to our freshwater systems. Too much phosphorous in our lakes can stimulate algae growth. Dead algae consumes much of the available dissolved oxygen in the water as it decomposes. Dissolved oxygen is needed for fish and other aquatic organisms to live.

2015 water quality results

Water quality testing results for 2015 show that there are high phosphorous levels in the Seine, Marsh, and Joubert watersheds. Phosphorous inputs in these areas following the spring snowmelt and heavy rainfall events are enough to elevate phosphorous concentrations above the provincial guideline of 0.5mg/L.

The good news is that much lower phosphorous levels in the Rat River may be reducing the overall load from the district into the Red River and Lake Winnipeg.

How does phosphorous get into our waterways?

There are many ways that phosphorous can enter our waterways. Land use is an important factor affecting phosphorus levels. The effects of land use on phosphorous levels in the SRRCD are noticeable when comparing phosphate levels in the Joubert Creek and the upper Rat River. The Joubert Creek has much higher phosphorous levels than the upper Rat River. This may be because there is more land along the Joubert Creek that is being used for intensive agriculture.

Surface water runoff containing nutrient-rich livestock manure is likely contributing to phosphorous loading in the SRRCD, as well as leaching from silage storage. It is often difficult to keep the hay dry during wet years and water from silage runoff is also acidic and high in phosphorous. Urban areas also contribute to phosphorous loading. It is estimated that phosphorous is sourced equally between urban areas, agriculture, and the natural environment. This means that it important that we work together to reduce phosphorous inputs into our waterways.

The water quality test results show that most of the phosphorous in our district is dissolved in the water. The greatest phosphorous loss occurring in the SRRCD is likely caused by melting snow and heavy rain. Pooling water that is unable to percolate the frozen, compacted or saturated soil quickly drains into nearby waterways, carrying nutrient-rich water downstream. We used to think that the spring melt contributes to most of our phosphorous loss. The water quality results we are now seeing are showing that short duration, high intensity rainfall events are likely to be just as harmful to our waterways.

The increasing frequency and severity of high water events in recent years is causing many of us to rethink the way we manage surface water. These short duration, high intensity rainfall events are washing out roads, threatening homes, eroding shorelines, and polluting our waterways with harmful contaminants. Our municipal and provincial infrastructure is designed for climatic conditions that no longer exist. The Red River Basin has experienced one in 100 year flooding events ten times in the past 25 years. This means that we must work towards mitigating the effects of increasing severe weather events.

The SRRCD works with sustainably-minded people to implement programs that utilize an integrated, watershed-based approach to managing surface water for riparian areas, aquatic ecosystems, water quality, recreational areas, and flood protection.

Bob Sandford to speak at organizational meeting

To support our stakeholders in building community resilience, we are pleased to announce Bob Sandford as this year’s keynote speaker at our annual organizational meeting on November 16, 2015.

Bob Sandford is a leading water scientist at the United Nations University Institute for Water, Environment and Health. His work focuses on translating scientific research outcomes into language decisions-makers can use to develop meaningful public policy relating to local water issues.

Bob will be speaking to the implications of the changing water cycle and what we can do to build stronger, more resilient communities. Colleen Sklar, Executive Director of Lake Friendly, will be joining Bob in support of this important message.

Have you heard of CoCoRaHS?

The SRRCD is also pleased to partner with Community Collaborative Rain, Hail & Snow Network (CoCoRaHS) to measure and map precipitation data in our district.

CoCoRaHS is a not-for-profit organization made up of volunteer observers who collect and report precipitation measurements using a CoCoRaHS rain gauge. You can visit the CoCoRaHS website at  for more information. The data that volunteer observers collect helps us to understand how isolated, short duration, and high-intensity rainfall events affect our district.

Please contact our office if you are interested in participating in this important program as a voluntary observer.