Category Archives: Reports

Surface Water Quality Data Trend Analysis (2011-2017) – Report Now Available!

The Regional District of Nanaimo’s Community Watershed Monitoring Network (CWMN) has completed over seven years of water quality sampling on dozens of rivers, creeks and streams in the region. Recently, a comprehensive report analyzed this dataset to uncover trends and provide recommendations.

Data on water temperature, conductivity, dissolved oxygen and turbidity is collected by trained stewardship volunteers and entered by RDN staff into the provincial EMS database. The sampling occurs once a week for 5 weeks in the low-flow period (August-September) and again in the fall-flush period (October-November).

This initiative is led by the RDN Drinking Water and Watershed Protection program, and was developed in close partnership with the BC Ministry of Environment. The objective of the CWMN is to better understand and track water quality to inform efforts to preserve, enhance and protect the health of the region’s surface water bodies. The long term goal is to identify trends in water quality to assist in regional land use planning, infrastructure, stewardship and restoration decisions.

In 2018, consulting water quality biologists Ecoscape Environmental Consultants Ltd. analyzed the 2011-2017 water quality data from the Community Watershed Monitoring Network and produced a comprehensive trend analysis that examined land use factors that were related to water quality exceedances.

Key findings from the analysis are summarized follows:

  • The majority (79%) of sites with sufficient data demonstrated stable water quality that did not change over time.
  • 12 out of the 34 sites with sufficient data demonstrated frequent exceedances of Provincial water quality objectives or guidelines over the 2011-2017 period.
  • Seven of these 12 sites have high agricultural use in the watershed, two of the 12 have upstream stormwater outfalls, and three are not well understood.
  • Watersheds that were less than 60% forest use are associated with changes in water quality.
  • Watersheds with greater than 20% agricultural use are associated with higher turbidity and lower dissolved oxygen.
  • Watersheds with high paved road densities are associated with increased conductivity and higher water temperatures.

The key recommendations from Ecoscape’s analysis included: improving streamside vegetation at priority locations; sampling for additional parameters to learn more about the source of water quality changes or issues; using the findings to direct targeted outreach and education on stormwater management and agricultural practices; updating mapping of land cover; and performing future trend analysis as more data becomes available.  The DWWP Technical Advisory Committee will be consulted on how best to implement recommendations from this analysis into the ongoing CWMN program activities through the regular operational budget of the RDN DWWP program in the coming years.

To see the report in full please click on this link: Surface Water Quality Trend Analysis – CWMN Data 2011-2017 .

In January through March 2019, presentations will be made to Councils and the public on the specific findings in each area of our region. Stay tuned!

Questions about the report? Contact

Resolution on Rainwater as a Potable Water Source

The Regional District of Nanaimo  Board has forwarded a resolution regarding Rainwater as a Potable Water Source to the Association of Vancouver Island and Coastal Communities (AVICC) for consideration at their 2016 AGM and convention in April.

If the resolution is adpoted at the AVICC convention, then it is forwarded to the Union of BC Municipalities convention in September.

The resolution urges the Province via the Ministry of Health to develop rainwater-specific:

  • treatment objectives and standards
  • source characterization protocols
  • infrastructure requirements

… for small water systems in BC that are regulated under the Drinking Water Protection Act.  Small water systems purvey water to the public, for example community centres, restaurants, mobile home parks etc. The need for this resolution comes from the fact that many small water systems that operate under the Act exist in water-stressed locations and would benefit from utilizing rainwater as an alternate / additional source of water to protect and reduce demand on traditional water sources, namely groundwater.

Because rainwater is a non-traditional water source, however, the risks are largely unknown. The quality is inherently variable as collection surfaces and environmental conditions differ from place to place. There are currently no provincial rainwater treatment objectives or standards for characterizing rainwater as a drinking water source. There is currently no comprehensive provincial guidance or framework of requirements for water systems to safely develop and use rainwater for potable purposes.

This lack of guidance and standards makes it difficult for water system operators to confidently and consistently address the safety requirements, and makes it difficult for the local health officers to approve rainwater source proposals. Ultimately this limits the successful utilization of rainwater as a potentially suitable additional water source to increase resiliency in rural areas.

If the Province, via the Ministry of Health, had a comprehensive framework that was developed through research, it would improve the prospect of rainwater being used as a safe alternative drinking water source. This is what the RDN is urging of the Province, to ultimately build community self-sufficiency and resilience in rural areas.

See the report to the RDN Board and attached resolution, here:

Download (PDF, Unknown)

What is Geochemistry?

Aqueous geochemistry studies the role of various elements in watersheds and how elemental fluxes are exchanged through atmospheric-terrestrial-aquatic interactions.

The chemistry of water can reveal aspects of where it is from and how old it is. In this study published by the Geological Survey of Canada, the geochemical analysis of the Englishman River provides valuable information on surface water and groundwater interactions, including seasonal aquifer contribution to river flow.

Read the 2013 document  Aqueous Geochemistry of the Englishman River Watershed, Parksville, British Columbia for use in assessment of potential surface water-groundwater interaction below:

Download (PDF, Unknown)

Are you a Geology buff?


Nanaimo geology… one of several interesting maps to explore in this report.

If you find geology as fascinating as we do, check out the 2012 report by A.P. Hamblin titled “Upper Cretaceous Nanaimo Group of Vancouver Island as a potential bedrock aquifer zone: summary of previous literature and concepts“.

From the report’s abstract:

“A new inquiry into the groundwater potential of the Nanaimo Lowlands is being jointly undertaken by concerned municipal, provincial and federal agencies.

Rapid population growth and expanding industrial development are, and will continue to, put pressure on the limited groundwater resources.

The bedrock component of the project focuses on the characterization of the aquifer potential of the Upper Cretaceous Nanaimo Group, as a likely target of importance.”

This publication is available for free download through GEOSCAN.