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Water Quality

Prepared for:
ENVIRONMENT CANADA
FRASER RIVER ACTION PLAN
and
WATER MANAGEMENT BRANCH
ENVIRONMENT AND RESOURCE DIVISION
MINISTRY OF ENVIRONMENT, LANDS AND PARKS

WATER QUALITY ASSESSMENT
and
RECOMMENDED OBJECTIVES
for the
SALMON RIVER
SUMMARY REPORT
Prepared pursuant to Section 2(e) of the
Environment Management Act, 1981
Prepared by:
MacDonald Environmental Sciences Ltd.
Original approved and signed by:
D. Fast
Assistant Deputy Minister
Environment and Lands HQ Division
and
J. O'Riordan
Assistant Deputy Minister
Environment and Lands Regions Division
September 18, 1998.

DISCLAIMER

This report is part of the British Columbioa Ministry of Environment, Lands and Parks' Water Quality Assessment and Objectives series. It has received formal review and approval from the Ministry. Environment Canada's Fraser River Action Plan provided funds for the production of this report. Its contents do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of Environment Canada.

TABLE OF CONTENTS


SUMMARY

This document is one in a series that describes the ambient water quality objectives that have been developed for various waterbodies in British Columbia. The report has two parts, including the following overview and a technical appendix (Gwanikar et al. 1997), which is available separately. The overview is intended both for technical readers and for readers who may not be familiar with the process for establishing water quality objectives. The overview provides general information about water quality conditions in the Salmon River watershed. This document also provides a summary of the recommended water quality objectives and monitoring program for the watershed. The technical appendix presents more detailed information on water uses, aquatic ecosystem structure, contaminant sources and ambient environmental conditions in the Salmon River watershed. In addition, the water quality objectives and the detailed monitoring recommendations for the river system are presented in the technical appendix.

The Salmon River is an important tributary of Shuswap Lake, which drains into the South Thompson River. In addition to supporting anadromous salmonids, resident fish species and other aquatic organisms, the Salmon River and its tributaries provide important sources of raw water for domestic water supplies, irrigation, and livestock watering. Recreation and aesthetics also represent important uses of the aquatic environment, both of which generate social and economic benefits to area residents.

Concerns related to environmental quality conditions in the Salmon River are primarily associated with non-point source contaminant discharges. Such contaminants arise from a variety of land use activities, including forest management, agriculture and urban development. Contaminants of concern in the watershed include suspended solids, turbidity, ammonia, phosphorus, nitrogen, metals and fecal coliforms. In addition, water withdrawals from the river and nearby infiltration galleries have resulted in decreased streamflows and associated effects on water temperatures and other habitat features in the river.

This report describes the water quality objectives that have been recommended for the Salmon River watershed. These objectives specify the water quality conditions that are necessary to protect aquatic life, wildlife, livestock watering, irrigation, drinking water supplies and aesthetic and recreational water uses in this river system. The objectives also represent targets which can be used to determine whether remediation efforts have been successful.

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Figure 1. Salmon River Drainage Basin Location Map
salmon river drainage location map
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PREFACE

Purpose of Water Quality Objectives
Water quality objectives are tools that support the effective management of water resources. They describe conditions that water managers have agreed should be met in order to protect the most sensitive designated uses of freshwater, estuarine, and coastal marine ecosystems. They are used in conjunction with other management tools, such as effluent controls, best management practices, and best available or best practicable wastewater treatment technology (BAT/BPT), to achieve high standards of water quality.

Water quality objectives are being jointly prepared by Environment Canada and the Ministry of Environment, Lands, and Parks, as part of their respective mandates for responsible water resource management. Objectives are prepared only for those waterbodies and water quality characteristics that may be affected by human activity, either now or in the future.

How Objectives Are Determined
Water quality objectives are based on water quality guidelines and criteria. The Canadian water quality guidelines, which are developed by the Canadian Council of Ministers of the Environment (CCME), are numerical concentrations or narrative statements for chemical, physical, radiological, and biological variables that are recommended to support and maintain designated water uses. Like water quality guidelines, water quality criteria also relate the physical, chemical, or biological characteristics of water, biota (plant and animal life) or sediment to their effects on water use, but differ in that they are developed by the Ministry of Environment, Lands and Parks.

Water quality objectives are numerical concentrations or narrative statements which have been established to support and protect the most sensitive designated use of water at a specified site (BCMOELP 1986; CCREM 1987). They are derived from the guidelines and criteria by considering local water quality, water uses, water movement, waste discharges and other factors.

Water quality objectives are based on the best scientific information available at the time the objectives are developed. When insufficient information exists, provisional water quality objectives may be applied until the data required to develop permanent water quality objectives are available. Provisional objectives are deliberately conservative. To facilitate the establishment of permanent objectives, a monitoring or study program is usually recommended to fill any data gaps that are identified.

Water quality objectives are set to protect the most sensitive designated water use at a specific location. Designated uses of water include the following:

Each objective for a location may be based on the protection of a different water use, depending on the uses that are most sensitive to the physical, chemical, or biological characteristics affecting that waterbody.

How Objectives Are Used
Water quality objectives have no legal standing at this time and, therefore, cannot be directly enforced. In British Columbia, water management objectives are achieved through the issuance of permits for effluent discharges, monitoring of the volumes and concentrations of contaminants discharged, inspection of farms, streambank restoration, erosion control, and enforcement of environmental legislation when violations occur. The limits on effluent discharges are generally based upon the best available technology for wastewater treatment; however, the objectives have also been used to support the permitting process in recent years.

Water quality objectives are important water management tools because they provide policy direction for resource managers with respect to the protection of water uses in specific waterbodies. Objectives provide benchmarks for evaluating water quality, issuing wastewater discharge permits, dispersing water withdrawal licences and orders, and managing fisheries and the province's land base. They also provide reference points against which the state of water quality can be checked and help to determine whether additional management actions are needed to protect and/or restore the designated water uses in a particular waterbody.

Objectives and Monitoring
Water quality objectives are established to protect all the uses which take place in a water body. To determine if the objectives are being met and if the water uses are being protected, monitoring programs are usually specified along with the objectives. Monitoring should take place at critical times when a water quality specialist has determined that the water quality objectives may not be met. It is assumed that if all designated water uses are protected at critical times, then they will also be protected at other times when the threat is less severe. The monitoring usually takes place during a five week period, which allows the specialists to measure the worst, as well as average, conditions in the water. For some water bodies, the monitoring period and frequency will vary with the nature of the problem, the severity of threats to designated water uses, and the way the objectives are expressed (i.e., mean value, maximum value, etc.).
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INTRODUCTION

The Salmon River watershed is located within the Interior Plateau of south-central British Columbia. Its headwaters originate in the vicinity of Tahaetkun and Bouleau Mountains, south of Westwold and northeast of Merritt. The river's headwaters are located in Monte Hills Provincial Forest, some 15 km northeast from Salmon Lake. Some of the river's flow is diverted into Salmon Lake; much of that flow returns to the river via McInnis Creek, the outlet from Salmon Lake. From the confluence with McInnis Creek, the Salmon River flows northeast to Falkland, then southeast and east to Glenemma, and finally north to Salmon Arm of Shuswap Lake. The total length and drainage area of the Salmon River are approximately 120 km and 1510 km2, respectively.

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Profile of the Salmon River Watershed

HYDROLOGY

The Salmon River watershed has unique hydrological conditions, which are influenced by local climatic conditions and by the underlying geology of the area. Peak streamflows occur during periods of snowmelt and high precipitation, usually during April, May, and June. The tributaries to the Salmon River appear to follow this same general discharge pattern. Peak daily discharges in the Salmon River at Salmon Arm are typically in the order of 15 to 25 m3/s each year.

Low flows in the Salmon River and its tributaries generally occur through the fall and winter months and are influenced significantly by linkages with ground water. As such, inputs of ground water maintain streamflows in many portions of the watershed during periods of low precipitation. This situation is reversed in the vicinity of Westwold. At this location, the Salmon River flows below the surface for most of the year, creating a dry reach for a distance of about 13 km. While year-round above ground flows have been observed in this reach, this section of the river usually represents a barrier to upstream fish passage.

Water withdrawals for irrigation and domestic water supplies have a pronounced influence on the hydrology of the Salmon River watershed. It has been estimated that 30 to 50% of the historic flow has been diverted from the Salmon River to support these uses. These water withdrawals have the potential to significantly influence both the quality and quantity of aquatic habitats in the river, with associated effects on fish and aquatic organisms. For this reason, water quantity objectives are also needed for the Salmon River and its tributaries.

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WATER USE

There are both consumptive and non-consumptive water uses within the study area. Consumptive water uses include withdrawals of raw water for domestic water supplies, irrigation, and livestock watering. Non-consumptive water uses include instream uses by fish and aquatic life, and recreation and aesthetics. The Salmon River and its tributaries provide habitats for a number of important sportfish species, including chinook salmon, coho salmon, sockeye salmon, rainbow trout and mountain whitefish. Aquatic habitats within the watershed also support a variety of resident fish species, aquatic invertebrates, amphibians, reptiles, birds, and mammals. The river is also becoming increasingly important for recreational water uses, including swimming, canoeing and bird watching.

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WASTE WATER DISCHARGES

There are no permitted wastewater discharges to the Salmon River or its tributaries. However, there are a number of indirect (i.e., non-point source) effluent discharges to tile fields, which have the potential to influence water quality conditions in the river. In addition, there are numerous other non-point or diffuse sources of environmental contaminants in the basin, including those originating from agricultural activities, forest management, urbanization, linear developments and limited mineral extraction. Priority substances associated with these contaminant sources include suspended solids, turbidity, ammonia and other forms of nitrogen, phosphorus, metals and fecal coliforms.

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Water Quality Assessment and Objectives

WATER QUALITY ASSESSMENT

Water quality data have been collected for more than 25 years in the Salmon River watershed. Of the locations that have been examined, the most complete information on water quality conditions is available for the Salmon River at Hwy #1 Bridge in the municipality of Salmon Arm. Examination of these data indicates that water quality is currently degraded in the Salmon River and, as such, does not fully support the designated water uses in the basin. For example, the concentrations of suspended solids and measurements of turbidity commonly exceed the levels needed to protect fish and aquatic life. While no information was located, it is likely that the high rates of erosion in the watershed are also affecting the quality of salmon spawning habitats.

Water quality concerns in the Salmon River are not limited to accelerated sediment transport and sedimentation. Elevated levels of nutrients (i.e., total phosphorus, total ammonia), certain metals (i.e., total arsenic, total cadmium, total chromium, total copper, total lead, total mercury and total zinc) and microbial indicators (i.e., fecal coliforms) have also been observed at several locations in the basin. During the summer months, water temperatures approach or exceed the levels that are known to adversely affect salmonid fishes, particularly near the mouth of the river.

While water quality conditions are generally similar among the locations that have been sampled in the Salmon River watershed, some important trends are evident from the available data. For example, pH generally increases from the headwaters to the mouth of the river. This is not uncommon in BC since the headwaters of streams often have little buffering potential; however, both buffering potential and pH tend to increase along the lengths of BC streams.

Similarly, concentrations of suspended solids increase along the length of the river, presumably due to general erosion and inputs from non-point sources on the mainstem and in the tributaries. The levels of fecal coliforms also follow this same general pattern. However, the concentrations of ammonia and total phosphorus are highest in the vicinity of Bolean Creek, likely reflecting inputs from the cattle feed lots that are prevalent in this area.

Information on trends over time provide a basis for determining if water quality is improving, worsening, or remaining the same. Recently, two focussed studies were conducted to evaluate water quality conditions in the Salmon River. The results of both of these studies indicated that water quality conditions are not showing any environmentally significant long-term trends (Lilley and Webber 1997; Regnier and Shaw 1997).

Water quality conditions are also degraded in Tappen Bay, which is located near the mouth of the Salmon River. At this location, elevated levels of total and ortho-phosphorus have been observed, particularly during the spring and summer months. High phosphorus levels represent a significant environmental concern in lakes because they can stimulate algal growth, which can represent an aesthetic concern (i.e., due to reduced water clarity) and a threat to aquatic life (i.e., due to reduced dissolved oxygen levels). The phosphorus in the bay originates largely from the Salmon River and the Salmon Arm sewage treatment plant. High levels of fecal coliforms may also be adversely affecting certain water uses in the bay (e.g., swimming) during portions of the year. Together, these data show that improvements in water quality conditions are needed to maintain existing water uses and support fisheries restoration efforts in the watershed.

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WATER QUALITY OBJECTIVES

The designated water uses that need to be protected in the Salmon River watershed include raw water for drinking water supplies, freshwater aquatic life, wildlife, recreation and aesthetics, irrigation and livestock watering. The priority variables with respect to the protection of these uses include water temperature, pH, dissolved oxygen, suspended sediments and turbidity, ammonia, phosphorus, microbial indicators and trace metals. In addition, water quality objectives are needed for streambed substrate composition (which is associated with suspended sediments), algal growth and biomass (which is associated with phosphorus) and instream flow.

The water quality objectives for the Salmon River are presented in Table 1 and Table 2. These objectives are based on the BC approved and working water quality criteria (Nagpal et al. 1995), the Canadian water quality guidelines (CCREM 1987), and the available data on ambient water quality conditions, water uses and streamflows in the Salmon River watershed. The BC approved and working water quality criteria and/or the Canadian water quality guidelines are considered to apply to those variables for which site-specific water quality objectives have not been specified.

The water quality objectives for many of the priority substances identified are currently being met throughout much of the year in the Salmon River watershed. Where these objectives are not being met presently, they represent targets which should be used to identify priorities for future investigations, management actions, and remedial measures to improve water quality conditions.

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MONITORING RECOMMENDATIONS

Monitoring programs should be designed and coordinated to determine the degree to which the water quality objectives are being met within the waterbody under investigation. Exceedances of the objectives indicate that one or more of the designated water uses may be threatened. Monitoring ecosystem responses to environmental disturbances provides a direct means of identifying situations where specific management actions or more restrictive water quality objectives are needed to meet water management goals. A recommended monitoring program design for the Salmon River and Tappen Bay is presented in Table 3. The recommended monitoring program specifies the locations, sampling timing, and sampling frequency needed to determine if the water quality objectives are currently being met. As there are various other monitoring programs being conducted in the watershed, it would be reasonable to integrate the recommended monitoring program into existing programs to achieve cost saving, prevent the perception of "duplication", and assure the comparability of the resultant data. Actual monitoring undertaken will depend upon resources available to BC Ministry of Environment, Lands, and Parks, Environment Canada, and local stewardship groups empowered to undertake such monitoring.

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REFERENCES

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WATER QUALITY OBJECTIVES AND MONITORING TABLES

A summary of the recommended water quality objectives are provided in Table 1 and Table 2. The recommended monitoring program for the Salmon River watershed is presented in Table 3. The objectives typically specify ranges of water quality conditions that are likely to protect the designated water uses in a waterbody. As such, the objectives often specify maximum, 90th percentile, or mean values that are not to be exceeded. In some cases, minimum values are also specified.

Some readers may be unfamiliar with terms such as: maximum concentration, 30-day average concentration, 90th percentile, and not applicable (NA). A maximum concentration refers to the value for a specific variable that should never be exceeded. A 30-day average concentration defines the level that should not be exceeded by the average value calculated for five or more samples that are collected at approximately equal intervals during a period of 30 days. The term 90th percentile indicates that 9 out of 10 values should be less than a particular value. Not applicable means that water uses are not threatened for that particular variable.

Table 1. Water Quality Objectives for the Salmon River Watershed.

Variables Maximum objectives 30-day mean objectives
Temperature 15.6 degrees Celcius
(Dec. 1 to Sept. 30)
12.8 degrees Celsius
(Oct. 1 to Nov. 30)
less than or equal to
14.2 degrees Celsius all year
Dissolved oxygen 9 mg/L long-term minimum
5.0 mg/L short-term minimum
greater than or equal to
11.0 mg/L long-term
8.0 mg/L short-term
pH 6.5 to 8.5 6.5 to 8.5
total suspended solids not applicable less than or equal to
10 mg/L over background, long-term
20 mg/L over background, short-term
Streambed substrate composition
% less than 2.00 mm
10% not applicable
Streambed substrate composition
% less than 3.00 mm
19% not applicable
Streambed substrate composition
% less than 6.35 mm
25% not applicable
Streambed substrate composition
geometric mean diameter
12.0 mm not applicable
Streambed substrate composition
Fredle Index
5 mm not applicable
Intragravel dissolved oxygen 8.0 mg/L minimum greater than 9.0 mg/L
Turbidity not applicable less than or equal to
5 NTU over background, long-term
10 NTU over background, short-term
Total phosphorus 10 microgram/L, Tappen Bay, long-term
15 microgram/L, Tappen Bay, short-term
not applicable
Total ammonia not applicable AMMONIA TABLE
Chlorophyll-a 50 mg/m2 not applicable
fecal coliforms 10/100 mL 90th percentile, long-term
100/100 mL 90th percentile, short-term
not applicable
Escherichia coli 10/100 mL 90th percentile not applicable
enterococcus 3/100 mL 90th percentile not applicable
-Not Applicable means no water quality objective is recommended.
-For the microbiological indicators the 90th percentile value is used rather than a maximum
Table 3. Recommended Water Quality Monitoring Program in the Salmon River Watershed.
Site and Location Variables to be Measured Sampling Details
Site #E206084
Latitude: 50.2844
Longitude: 119.9850
Salmon River at the first farm bridge (about 400 m) u/s from the confluence with McInnis Creek
Temperature January to December, daily
continuous
Dissolved oxygen May to October, weekly
30 samples
Dissolved oxygen November to April, monthly
6 samples
Total suspended solids, turbidity, hardness, pH, conductivity January to December, weekly
52 samples
Total suspended solids, turbidity freshet, every 3 days, 20 samples
Total ammonia March, June, September and December, weekly
20 samples
fecal coliforms, enterococcus
Escherichia coli
May, July and September
every 3 days
30 samples
Pesticides and Herbicides TBD, once, TBD
Chlorophyll-a August and October, once, TBD
Streambed substrate composition September, once, TBD
Conductivity, hardness, arsenic, cadmium, copper, chromium, lead, mercury, zinc March and September, weekly
10 samples
Site #E207855
Latitude: 50.4861
Longitude: 119.5381
Salmon River about 2 km east of Falkland
Temperature January to December, daily
continuous
Dissolved oxygen May to October, weekly
30 samples
Dissolved oxygen November to April, monthly
6 samples
Total suspended solids, turbidity, hardness, pH, conductivity January to December, weekly
52 samples
Total suspended solids, turbidity freshet, every 3 days, 20 samples
Total ammonia March, June, September and December, weekly
20 samples
fecal coliforms, enterococcus
Escherichia coli
May, July and September
every 3 days
30 samples
Pesticides and Herbicides TBD, once, TBD
Chlorophyll-a August and October, once, TBD
Streambed substrate composition September, once, TBD
Site #E206089
Latitude: 50.4561
Longitude: 119.3728
Salmon River 10 m u/s of Highway 97 bridge above Glenemma
Temperature January to December, daily
continuous
Dissolved oxygen May to October, weekly
30 samples
Dissolved oxygen November to April, monthly
6 samples
Total suspended solids, turbidity, hardness, pH, conductivity January to December, weekly
52 samples
Total suspended solids, turbidity freshet, every 3 days, 20 samples
Total ammonia March, June, September and December, weekly
20 samples
Chlorophyll-a August and October, once, TBD
Streambed substrate composition September, once, TBD
Site #E206091
Latitude: 50.6083
Longitude: 119.3642
Salmon River 10 m u/s of road bridge below the community of Silver Creek (about 1.7 km d/s of Silver Creek)
Temperature January to December, daily
continuous
Dissolved oxygen May to October, weekly
30 samples
Dissolved oxygen November to April, monthly
6 samples
Total suspended solids, turbidity, hardness, pH, conductivity January to December, weekly
52 samples
Total suspended solids, turbidity freshet, every 3 days, 20 samples
Total ammonia March, June, September and December, weekly
20 samples
Chlorophyll-a August and October, once, TBD
Streambed substrate composition September, once, TBD
Site #BC08LE0004/E206092
Latitude: 50.6929
Longitude: 119.3298
Salmon River 5 m u/s of Salmon Valley Road bridge near Highway #1
Temperature January to December, daily
continuous
Dissolved oxygen May to October, weekly
30 samples
Dissolved oxygen November to April, monthly
6 samples
Total suspended solids, turbidity, hardness, pH, conductivity January to December, weekly
52 samples
Total suspended solids, turbidity freshet, every 3 days, 20 samples
Total ammonia March, June, September and December, weekly
20 samples
fecal coliforms, enterococcus
Escherichia coli
May, July and September
every 3 days
30 samples
Pesticides and Herbicides TBD, once, TBD
Total and Ortho-phosphorus January to December, biweekly, 26
Conductivity, hardness, arsenic, cadmium, copper, chromium, lead, mercury, zinc March and September, weekly
10 samples
Site E206770
Latitude: 50.7144
Longitude: 119.2789
Shuswap Lake in southeast end of Tappen Bay shallows opposite downtown Salmon Arm
Total and Ortho-phosphorus open water, biweekly
60 samples
Temperature, hardness, pH open water, biweekly
60 samples
Dissolved oxygen open water, biweekly
60 samples
Chlorophyll-a open water, monthly
30 samples
fecal coliforms, enterococcus
Escherichia coli
open water, every 3 days, 50 samples
Site E206771
Latitude: 50.7144
Longitude: 119.2789
Shuswap Lake in southwest end of Tappen Bay in deep holes opposite Sandy Point in 30 m of water
Total and Ortho-phosphorus open water, biweekly
60 samples
Temperature, hardness, pH open water, biweekly
60 samples
Dissolved oxygen open water, biweekly
60 samples
Chlorophyll-a open water, monthly
30 samples
fecal coliforms, enterococcus
Escherichia coli
open water, every 3 days, 50 samples
TBD-To be determined at a later date.
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For further information contact
L. Swain
Water Quality Branch
Environmental Protection Department
Ministry of Environment, Lands and Parks
(250) 387-4227

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