Research Theme - Land-Water Management and Environmental Change

Photo courtesy Ducks Unlimited Canada. Land management practices can have a visible effect on how water moves through a landscape. Photo courtesy Ducks Unlimited Canada. Land management practices may have a visible effect on how water moves through a landscape.Activities on land have the ability to impact water quantity and affect water quality. Global Institute for Water Security research groups are increasing our understanding of how agriculture management practices and urban water management affect water quality and water movement through a watershed.

Land-Water Management and Environmental Change working groups are collaborating on research into:
  • Effects of agricultural management on hydrological function, discharges and connectivity to the river system.
  •   Impacts of agricultural and urban water management, including nutrients, pathogens and pharmaceutical products on water quality.   
  • Lake biogeochemical processes, including ecosystem sensitivity to climate variability and pollutant stress
  • Development of feasible policy interventions and associated lake water quality and ecosystem responses

Theme Objectives:

  • Improve agriculture land-water management by understanding the effects of multiple stressors on water quantity and quality in watersheds
  • Develop water quality modelling tools by understanding the interaction between the hydrology, water quality and aquatic ecology of research sites
  • Develop new decision support tools for management and remediation of diffuse pollution, including mitigating impacts on aquatic ecosystem health

Research Sites:

Lake Diefenbaker          
Smith Creek
St. Denis National Wildlife Area
Brightwater Creek
Swift Current Creek
Tobacco Creek

Research Spotlight on Lake Diefenbaker

Lake Diefenbaker is a major storage reservoir on the South Saskatchewan River and the province’s single most important water reserve, providing drinking water for more than 65 per cent of the province’s population. It also supplies almost all irrigation water in the province, some flood control and is a highly valued recreational asset for the more than 40 communities that line its 800 km of shoreline.

Inflows to the lake have dropped over 40 per cent since the early 1900s due to increased upstream consumption and reduced natural flows from the river’s Rocky Mountain headwaters. There are concerns about increased eutrophication of the lake under current conditions, which can be worsened by pollution from agricultural drainage waters and treated sewage effluents from upstream town and cities. However, historical research data from Lake Diefenbaker is limited, making it difficult to understand the frequency of algal blooms and what is causing them. In addition, the South Saskatchewan River has been identified as Canada’s most threatened river and is susceptible to climate change.

Global Institute for Water Security research groups are reconstructing and interpreting the past nutrient status of Lake Diefenbaker and identifying and prioritizing man-made contaminants in the South Saskatchewan River system.  In addition, they will be identifying sources and management practices that are resulting in nutrient contamination of the river system. Research began in spring 2011.