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Inland waters

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    Water level and discharge data are available from Water Survey of Canada’s Hydrometric Network. The Water Survey of Canada (WSC) is the national authority responsible for the collection, interpretation and dissemination of standardized water resource data and information in Canada. In partnership with the provinces, territories and other agencies, WSC operates over 2500 active hydrometric gauges across the country, maintains an archive of historical information for over 7600 stations and provides access to near real-time (water level and stream flow) provisional data at over 1700 locations in Canada.

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    Water Quality Monitoring on Tributaries in the Athabasca River Oil Sands Region Ells River (EL1, ELLS RIFF 2, ELLS RIFF5 [2012-2015]) Mackay River (MA1 [2012-2015], MA2 [2013-2015]) Steepbank River (STB RIFF1, STB WSC, STB RIFF7, STB RIFF10 [2012-2015]) Firebag River (FI1, FI WSC [2012-2015]) Muskeg River (MU1 [2012-2015]), MU6 [2012-2015]), MU7 [2012]) High Hills River (HIHI1 [2013-2015]) Water quality of tributaries in the Athabasca River oil sands region is heavily influenced by the presence of the underlying Cretaceous bedrock, which is comprised of shale, sandstone and limestone. The waters are moderately hard (average alkalinity of 114 mg l-1 CaCO3) because of their mineral content, particularly magnesium (average 8.62 mg l-1), calcium (average 28.06 mg l-1) and bicarbonate (138.53 mg l-1). This mineral content results in an average conductivity of 245 +/- 4 µS cm-1 and total dissolved solids concentration of 140 +/- 2 ppm. Concentrations of nitrogen and phosphorus (indicators of nutrient status) are typically low to moderate, averaging 0.14 mg l-1 total phosphorus, 0.03 mg l-1 total dissolved phosphorus, 0.92 mg l-1 total nitrogen, 0.09 mg l-1 nitrogen as nitrate+nitrite, and 0.04 mg l-1 nitrogen as total ammonia. Seasonal variation for the majority of water quality constituents within the Athabasca tributaries can be strong and is highly reflective of hydrological discharge (i.e., highest concentrations typically occur during snowmelt periods, especially for parameters that are bound to particulate matter). Spatial variation of parameters within tributaries general showed an increasing trend from upstream of development to samples collected downstream of development (near mouth of a tributary). Of the 45 water quality constituents (physical characteristics, major ions, metals, metalloids, selenium) and 52 Polycyclic Aromatic Compounds (PACs) analyzed, 28 have Guidelines for the Protection of Aquatic Life (Canadian Council of Ministers of the Environment – CCME). Only a few parameters were classified with frequent exceedances (i.e., >10% of of the approximately 1430 samples): total iron, 99% of all samples; total aluminum, 61%; total suspended solids, 39%; and total copper, 17%. All measurements of total mercury were below the CCME guideline; only pyrene from the PACs showed occasional exceedances (2% of samples) for established guidelines. Exceedances of guidelines are not uncommon in many river systems within and outside of the Oil Sands region and, in general, are associated with high flow events when suspended solids and contaminant loads are the greatest. High concentrations of suspended sediment (measured as total suspended solids) were observed during high flow events, such as occur during snowmelt and summer rainfall events. The high percentage of exceedances for iron was expected as these waters are known to have naturally-occurring high concentrations of iron. Mercury in Tributaries This data set includes river water concentrations of total mercury (THg; all forms of mercury in a sample) and methyl mercury (MeHg; the form of mercury that bioaccumulates through food webs) in five Athabasca River tributaries (Ells, Steepbank, Firebag, Muskeg and MacKay rivers). No samples exceeded the Canadian Council of Ministers of the Environment guidelines for THg and MeHg.

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    The Canadian Aquatic Biomonitoring Network (CABIN) is an aquatic biomonitoring program for assessing the health of fresh water ecosystems in Canada. Benthic macroinvertebrates are collected at a site location and their counts are used as an indicator of the health of that water body. CABIN is based on the network of networks approach that promotes inter-agency collaboration and data-sharing to achieve consistent and comparable reporting on fresh water quality and aquatic ecosystem conditions in Canada. The program is maintained by Environment and Climate Change Canada (ECCC) to support the collection, assessment, reporting and distribution of biological monitoring information. A set of nationally standardized CABIN protocols are used for field collection, laboratory work, and analysis of biological monitoring data. A training program is available to certify participants in the standard protocols. There are two types of sites in the CABIN database (reference and test). Reference sites represent habitats that are closest to “natural” before any human impact. The data from reference sites are used to create reference models that CABIN partners use to evaluate their test sites in an approach known as the Reference Condition Approach (RCA). Using the RCA models, CABIN partners match their test sites to groups of reference sites on similar habitats and compare the observed macroinvertebrate communities. The extent of the differences between the test site communities and the reference site communities allows CABIN partners to estimate the severity of the impacts at those locations. CABIN samples have been collected since 1987 and are organized in the database by study (partner project). The data is delineated by the 11 major drainage areas (MDA) found in Canada and each one has a corresponding study, habitat and benthic invertebrate data file. Links to auxiliary water quality data are provided when available. Visits may be conducted at the same location over time with repeat site visits being identified by identical study name / site code with different dates. All data collected by the federal government is available on Open Data and more partners are adding their data continually. The csv files are updated monthly. Contact the CABIN study authority to request permission to access non open data.

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    As part of a three year study funded by Environment and Climate Change Canada and Natural Resources Canada (ecoENERGY Innovation Initiative, project UOSGQ963; http://www.nrcan.gc.ca/energy/funding/current-fundingprograms/eii/4985) data were gathered to assess and monitor water quality conditions in northeastern British Columbia (BC). Defined in this datasetas portions of the Petitot, Fort Nelson, and Hay River basins, northeast BC is a region subject to both historical conventional oil and gas development and more recent unconventional oil and gas (UOG) development. UOG development in this area is presently focused on the Horn River Basin, Cordova Embayment and Liard Basin shale formations (BCOGC 2010, 2013a). Otherwise, UOG development in BC is centered in the Montney Play, located further south (Adams et al. 2016). Surface water quality assessment and monitoring focused on two river basins in this area: the Petitot River Basin and the Fort Nelson River Basin. Baseline and/or best available surface water quality information was gathered from January 2012 to March 2015. Benthic macroinvertebrates were collected over the same period to complement the water quality study through development of a Canadian Aquatic Biomonitoring Network (CABIN) bioassessment model. Routine Water Quality Monitoring study objectives were to gain a better understanding of water quality conditions in the Petitot River Basin by collecting baseline data using a standard suite of physical-chemical variables and establishing a representative long-term site. Routine water quality sampling sites were selected at locations with known exposure to UOG activity and varying watershed areas; submersible loggers were also installed to collect specific conductance and temperature data. Synoptic Water Quality Monitoring study objectives were to establish patterns of spatial and temporal water chemistry through synoptic water sampling at high and low flow periods and examine potential relationships between UOG activity and surface water quality. Sample sites were selected at microbasin drainage outlets to represent a range of upstream activity and potential contamination. A series of samples were also collected along the mainstem Petitot River at 20-kilometre intervals from the Alberta border to the Highway 77 bridge to capture potential “step-changes” in water chemistry as the river flows through the northeast BC gas production area. Biological Monitoring study objectives were to establish baseline reference conditions based on benthic macroinvertebrate communities and habitat characteristics, and develop a predictive bioassessment model to assess the ecosystem health of streams in the Liard, Fort Nelson, and Petitot River basins exposed to UOG activity. The biological monitoring study design followed CABIN sampling methodology for benthic macroinvertebrate collections in streams and rivers (Environment Canada 2012, http://www.ec.gc.ca/rcba-cabin). Sampling was conducted at 53 reference sites unaffected or minimally influenced by human activity. Thirty five test sites were also selected across a gradient of UOG activity, based on well densities. A preliminary predictive bioassessment model for northeast BC was established and is available through the CABIN website for future assessment of water quality and ecosystem health in the region.

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    The river bed sediments in the Lower Athabasca are known to shift and migrate downstream. Numerical modelling of water quantity and quality (including sediments) requires accurate river channel cross-sectional geometry within the area of study. Such cross-sectional geometry prior to 2012 was limited for the Lower Athabasca River restricting modelling accuracy and efficiency. As such, in order to better understand the bed sediment dynamics of the lower Athabasca River and to support model development (e.g., calibration/validation of sediment/bitumen erosion/transport/deposition), high resolution swath bathymetry data were collected form bank to bank during open water seasons (2012-2014) covering approximately 115 km from Fort McMurray to the mouth of the Firebag River. Data are presented in 2km stretches of the river and are represented by 1) a kmz file which gives a visual representation of the coverage of the file, and 2) a detailed grid file which contains the full x,y,z coordinates at 0.5m resolution. While very useful for modelling, it should be realized that given the continually changing form of the lower Athabasca bed geometry, the data provided is a “snap shot in time” and is not reflective of the current condition. Further, and as related, this information is not for navigation purposes.

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    Observations on various types of wetlands, terrestrial environments, and vascular plants for 55 sites visited in 2012 and located in in the Boucherville Islands are included in this dataset. Since the 1970s, Environment and Climate Change Canada (ECCC) has been monitoring changes in wetlands under the State of the St. Lawrence River Monitoring program of the St. Lawrence Action Plan.

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    Observations on various types of wetlands, terrestrial environments, and vascular plants for 102 sites visited in 2012 and located on Lake Saint-Pierre are included in this dataset. Since the 1970s, Environment and Climate change Canada (ECCC) has been monitoring changes in wetlands under the State of the St. Lawrence River Monitoring program of the St. Lawrence Action Plan.

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    At offshore sites, triplicate Ponar grabs (0.052 m-2) of sediment were collected from the M/V Namao. At nearshore sites, sediment samples were collected from a smaller workboat using a Petite Ponar grab (0.023 m-2) at the 3 m depth contour. Total sampling effort varied across the three years owing to time and logistical constraints (see Supplemental Table S1 for additional detail). Additional samples were collected at up to 18 shoreline sites (depths ranging from 0.2 - 1.0 m) around the lake in 2019. Depending on the type of substrate present, different sampling approaches were employed. For silt to gravel sized substrates, three to five 1 m long benthic kick-net (Canadian Aquatic Biomonitoring Network; CABIN, 400 µm mesh) drags were utilized. For cobble to rock sized substrate, three to five 0.25 m2 quadrats were placed randomly on the lake bed and up to five individual rocks were removed. All live mussels were removed from the rocks (when present) using a paint scraper. A sheet of tinfoil (Handi-foil®; PN 51805, standard foil wrap) was placed over the surface area of the rock and excess foil trimmed away. The foil was carefully cleaned of debris, folded and placed in a Ziploc® bag for later weighing. The weight of foil for each sampled rock was determined gravimetrically (to nearest 0.01 g) using a laboratory balance and converted to surface area using the relationship FoilArea (cm2) = 305.73*FoilWeight(g) (r2 = 0.99, df = 8) derived from a model-II regression of foil mass and area measurements of foil squares cut from the same roll of foil in the laboratory. For boulder to bedrock size substrates, a 0.01 m2 wire quadrat was placed at up to five randomly selected locations and all mussels within the wire quadrat were removed. The percentage of hard substrate present at each site was determined to the nearest 10%, and the percent rock, rock surface area, and rock bottom area were used to normalize densities per m2 of lake-bottom, following Bailey et al. (1995).

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    The Canadian Environmental Sustainability Indicators (CESI) program provides data and information to track Canada's performance on key environmental sustainability issues. The Water quality in Canadian rivers indicator provide a measure of the ability of river water across Canada to support plants and animals. These indicators provide information about the state of surface water quality and its change through time, to support water resource management. Information is provided to Canadians in a number of formats including: static and interactive maps, charts and graphs, HTML and CSV data tables and downloadable reports. See the supplementary documentation for the data sources and details on how the data were collected and how the indicator was calculated. Canadian Environmental Sustainability Indicators: https://www.canada.ca/environmental-indicators

  • Habitat and ecosystem data used to conduct a baseline survey of coastal habitat in Lake Ontario, Niagara River and the St. Lawrence River (up to the Quebec border) are included in this dataset. The Lake Ontario Survey methodology consists of four general steps; 1) delineating the coastal ecosystem into coastal units based on water flow, ecology, and geology; 2) selecting key habitat types including wetlands, uplands (natural and anthropogenic), tributaries, and inland lakes and ponds, and the measures to assess each habitat type and the entire coastal ecosystem; 3) conducting a spatial analysis and summarizing results; and 4) sharing results.