Weekly water sampling on the Oldman River.

Alex Shade taking samples of the Oldman River near high bush on Jan 22. Photo by Tawnya Plain Eagle
By Tawnya Plain Eagle

A new water sampling project is taking place in the Oldman River to monitor the water quality.

The Climate Change Health Adaptation Program has developed long-term water sampling for the purpose of monitoring the environmental changes to the river within the Piikani Nation boundaries.

According to Alex Shade, lead coordinator for the project, the Piikani Nation was included in a provincial long-term river monitoring network for a short amount of time twenty years ago. 

Since then the water quality in the Oldman River has not been monitored, however The Piikani Nation currently monitors it’s drinking water from a domestic water supply.

“With climate change and multiple dams, the Oldman river needs to be closely monitored to help the nation in managing the water resource in Piikani,” Shade said. 

Shade take samples in high bush once a week to check for E. coli and total coliforms, which are the same tests sampled from the domestic water supply. 

“[This] location is important because it is in-between the Oldman River Dam and then LNID Weir for the northern Lethbridge irrigation district,“ Shade said. 

An example of what is taken from the Oldman Rive once a month. Photo courtesy of Alex Shade.

They also run a full sweep of water quality parameters once a month that look for changes in the PH Levels, Chloride, Alkalinity, amongst other substances. 

These parameters were previously used for the surface water study in the federal environmental impact assessment post dam (F.E.I.A) in the early 2000’s. Shade believes they’ll be an ability to compare the climate change health adaptation programs results with the F.E.I.A results in the future

Shade said most aquatic species in the Oldman river require a perfect balance of cold winters and warm summers to survive. 

Along with two damming systems on either side of the reserve already and the non-native species of fish being outnumbered by the native species of fish, there already is an interruption to nature and the natural growth of the river bottom.

“long-term monitoring may be the only tool the nation will have to identify possible changes to water quality over time.”

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