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WATER QUALITY

Environmental Protection


State of Water Quality of Alsek River Above Bates River 1992 - 1994

Canada - British Columbia Water Quality Monitoring Agreement

Water Quality Branch
Environmental Protection Department
Ministry of Environment, Lands and Parks
(now called Ministry of Water, Land and Air Protection)


Monitoring and Systems Branch
Pacific and Yukon Region
Environment Canada


November 1996


Executive Summary

The Alsek River originates in the Yukon Territory and flows through the northwest corner of British Columbia. From here, the Alsek River flows southwest through the Alaskan panhandle into the Pacific Ocean. Activities in the Alsek watershed are minimal as much of the watershed lies within Kluane National Park.

This report assesses the water quality data collected by Environment Canada at the monitoring station just upstream from the Bates River. Water quality samples were collected bi-monthly during 1992 to 1994 by Environment Canada. Flow was measured at a Water Survey of Canada flow gauge at the same location.


We concluded that:

  • Not enough data were available to comment on trends in water quality.
  • Peak non-filterable residue and turbidity values occurred during peak flows and turbidity removal would be necessary before use as drinking water.
  • High metals levels that exceeded water quality criteria corresponded with high suspended sediments, suggesting that the metals were in a particulate form and probably not biologically available and would be removed by the turbidity removal process needed before drinking.
  • The river had a low sensitivity to acid inputs.
  • Hardness levels were within the optimum range for drinking water most of the time, with highest values in the spring and lowest values in the autumn.

    Water quality monitoring is continuing for the Alsek River above Bates River at present, and it's future will depend on federal obligations under the Heritage Rivers Act and the needs of Kluane National Park. British Columbia has no interest in further monitoring of the Alsek at this time because:

  • There were no apparent problems in Alsek River water quality and none are expected in the foreseeable future.
  • The data obtained to date would suffice as baseline information for general planning purposes.

Figure 1: Map of Alsek River (scale 1:900 000)

Map of Alsek River


Table of Contents

Introduction

Quality Assurance

Conclusions — State of Water Quality

Recommendations for Water Quality Management

Remediation

Monitoring

References

List of Figures

Figure 1: Map of Alsek River (scale 1:900 000)
Figure 2: Flow
Figure 3: Total Alkalinity
Figure 4: Total Aluminum
Figure 5: Total Arsenic
Figure 6: Total Barium
Figure 7: Total Beryllium
Figure 8: Total Cadmium
Figure 9: Calcium
Figure 10: Total Inorganic Carbon
Figure 11: Total Organic Carbon
Figure 12: Dissolved Chloride
Figure 13: Total Chromium
Figure 14: Total Cobalt
Figure 15: Apparent Colour
Figure 16: Total Copper
Figure 17: Dissolved Fluoride
Figure 18: Hardness
Figure 19: Total Iron
Figure 20: Total Lead
Figure 21: Total Lithium
Figure 22: Magnesium
Figure 23: Total Manganese
Figure 24: Total Molybdenum
Figure 25: Total Nickel
Figure 26: Nitrogen (Nitrate / Nitrite)
Figure 27: Total Dissolved Nitrogen
Figure 28: pH
Figure 29: Total Phosphorus
Figure 30: Potassium
Figure 31: Filterable Residue
Figure 32: Non-Filterable Residue
Figure 33: Fixed Filterable Residue
Figure 34: Fixed Non-Filterable Residue
Figure 35: Total Selenium
Figure 36: Silica
Figure 37: Sodium
Figure 38: Specific Conductivity
Figure 39: Total Strontium
Figure 40: Dissolved Sulphate
Figure 41: Air Temperature
Figure 42: Water Temperature
Figure 43: Turbidity
Figure 44: Total Vanadium
Figure 45: Total Zinc


Author

Jang, L. Water Quality Section, Water Management Branch, Ministry of Environment, Lands and Parks (now Water, Land and Air Protection), Victoria, BC

Webber, T. Water Quality Section, Water Management Branch, Ministry of Environment, Lands and Parks (now Water, Land and Air Protection), Victoria, BC


Acknowledgements

Pommen, L.W. Water Quality Section, Water Management Branch, Ministry of Environment, Lands and Parks (now Water, Land and Air Protection), Victoria, BC

Regnier, R. Monitoring Strategies Division, Monitoring and Systems Branch, Pacific and Yukon Region, Environment Canada, Vancouver, BC

Rocchini, R.J. Water Quality Section, Water Management Branch, Ministry of Environment, Lands and Parks (now Water, Land and Air Protection), Victoria, BC

Whitley, G. Department of Indian and Northern Affairs Canada, Water Resources, Whitehorse, Yukon.


Introduction

The Alsek River originates in the Yukon Territory, and flows south through the northwest corner of BC, crossing the BC and Alaska international border before flowing southwest through the Alaskan panhandle and into the Pacific Ocean at Dry Bay. The Alsek River is under ice for 5 to 6 months of the year.

The water quality monitoring station and the flow station are located in the Yukon about 20 km north from the Yukon/BC border, and a short distance upstream from the Bates River. We are not able to obtain drainage area information for this watershed.

Data for this report were obtained from samples collected primarily by Environment Canada during 1992 to 1994. The data are stored under ENVIRODAT station number YT08AB0009. The water quality indicators are plotted in Figures 3 to 45. Water Survey of Canada operates a flow gauge at the water quality monitoring station (site number YT08AB001). Flow data are plotted in Figure 2.


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Quality Assurance

The water quality graphs were inspected and erroneous values were removed. Mercury data were not plotted because all detectable values were likely due to contamination (Pommen, 1994).


Conclusions — State of Water Quality

The state of the water quality for certain variables was judged by comparing values to the Ministry of Environment, Lands and Parks' Approved and Working Criteria for Water Quality (Nagpal et al., 1995). There are no site-specific water quality objectives for the Alsek River. With only three years of bi-monthly samples, the record was too short and sparse to comment on any trends. Since the record was short and sparse and there were no apparent water quality concerns, a detailed assessment of the data was not written. Our overall conclusions about the state of water quality are presented below.

  • Not enough data were available to comment on trends in water quality.
  • Peak non-filterable residue and turbidity values occurred during peak flows and turbidity removal would be necessary before use as drinking water.
  • High metals levels that exceeded water quality criteria corresponded with high suspended sediments, suggesting that the metals were in a particulate form and probably not biologically available and would be removed by the turbidity removal needed before drinking.
  • Hardness levels were usually within the optimum range for drinking water most of the time, with highest values in the spring and lowest values in the autumn.
  • The river had a low sensitivity to acid inputs.
  • The river was cool enough for drinking, but too cold for water-contact recreation at all times of the year.


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Recommendations for Water Quality Management

Remediation

No remedial activities appear to be necessary at this time.


Monitoring

Water quality monitoring is continuing for the Alsek River above Bates River at present, and it's future will depend on federal obligations under the Heritage Rivers Act and the needs of Kluane National Park. British Columbia has no interest in further monitoring of the Alsek at this time because:

  • There were no apparent problems in Alsek River water quality and none are expected in the foreseeable future.
  • The data obtained to date would suffice as baseline information for general planning purposes.


Return to Table of Contents

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