South Slave

Water monitoring resumes at Peace River, Slave River sites


The territorial government says long-term water quality monitoring has resumed on the Peace River at Peace Point and Slave River at Fort Fitzgerald.

A range of environmental monitoring south of the NWT’s rivers and lakes had been halted by both provincial and federal governments after the Covid-19 pandemic began.

Environment and Climate Change Canada is due to resume field activities along key rivers this month, but the NWT government said on Wednesday a new collaboration with federal authorities will ensure enhanced monitoring is in place in the meantime.

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“The quality of water is important for NWT residents and for the sustainability of the Mackenzie River basin,” the territory stated.

An NWT government graph shows how the water level in Yellowknife Bay is dramatically higher this year than in any other of the past 20 years.

Alongside monitoring of the Peace and Slave rivers south of the border, monitoring will resume at federal sites within the NWT on the Hay and Slave rivers.

“Provincial monitoring in Alberta has already resumed, as has long-term federal monitoring at important sites on the Athabasca River,” the territory’s statement continued.

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“Water quality monitoring in the NWT has continued throughout the Covid-19 pandemic, with only slight delay.

“Water samples collected will be analyzed at Taiga Environmental Laboratories in Yellowknife and will also be distributed to Government of Canada-designated laboratories for further analysis.”

Shane Thompson, the territory’s environment minister, said resuming monitoring at the four sites “will help us answer residents’ questions” about water flowing from the south.

There have been more questions than usual this summer as some of the highest water levels in living memory occurred on NWT lakes and rivers.

The NWT government says this is “primarily due to high precipitation” in the Mackenzie River basin and only a temporary impact on water quality is expected.

Last week, the NWT’s Department of Environment and Natural Resources said it was “working with other jurisdictions to gather information to better understand the contributions of upstream watershed, including the role the Bennett Dam, on high water levels experienced on Great Slave Lake.”

Spills have been taking place this summer at the Peace River’s Bennett Dam, in British Columbia. They are a means of controlling the amount of water in the reservoir behind the dam after high rainfall and higher-than-average snowmelt.

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