Pre-restoration monitoring in the Columbia Headwaters

Living Lakes Canada spent time in B.C.’s Columbia Valley (East Kootenay) the first week of October assisting a Shuswap Indian Band project that’s being done in collaboration with the Columbia Wetlands Stewardship Partners (CWSP) thanks to a DFO funding contribution for aquatic species at risk ($1.7 million over four years).

CHARS (Columbia Headwaters Aquatic Restoration Secwépemc Strategy) has determined that the Columbia River and Wetlands have roughly 300 tributaries entering between Canal Flats and Donald. In order to enhance habitat for at-risk fish species, CHARS is prioritizing 20 streams with restoration work planned for five to 10, some having been damaged by extreme sedimentation events and creek blowouts.

“We’re focusing on the east side tributaries , where there is more private land and easier access,” said project lead Jon Bisset. “The west side is primarily affected by logging, with less access.”

Part of the restoration work includes removing agricultural dams that are blocking fish passage. As an example, six dams have been removed from Galena Creek at the north end of the valley and replaced with irrigation pipe systems that can be raised and lowered without affecting fish movement yet still allowing for irrigation to fields. 

LLC staff Raegan Mallinson and Kyle Prince completed the pre-restoration monitoring using CABIN, and collected DNA samples at every site to contribute to the STREAM project.

“We collected traditional samples at the furthest downstream (most affected) site on every creek,” explained Mallinson. “Jon has also asked us to collect archive samples at the most downstream site.” 


A water monitoring framework for the Upper (Canadian) Columbia Basin

Living in a changing climate poses many difficulties. One of the most pressing issues arises around water: its quality, and its availability. Water monitoring within a standardized framework is necessary to collect this data, and there has been a documented need for increased water monitoring in the Canadian Columbia Basin for well over a decade (see “Background” below).

This past June, a University of British Columbia study was published, Detecting the Effects of Sustained Glacier Wastage on Streamflow in Variably Glacierized Catchments, that suggests the glacier-melt contributions to August runoff have already passed peak water in the Canadian Columbia Basin. The analysis indicates that there is a clear declining trend, which can have implications for streamflow forecasting and summer water temperature response during hot, dry weather (see the BC Drought Map that classified the East and West Kootenay basins as Level 2 “dry” this past summer; and currently the East Kootenay as Level 2).

The increased frequency of extreme events and the projected decreases in low flows both suggest some urgency for a more comprehensive  monitoring network be implemented in order to understand the hydrological  and water quality  changes, and  to mitigate and adapt to the growing risks of changes in flow regimes. 

On June 8th 2020, LLC convened and facilitated a hydrology workshop with the purpose of developing recommendations for a phased expansion of the monitoring network for the Upper (Canadian) Columbia Basin (UCB). The workshop objectives were:

  • to develop criteria for selecting (priority) watersheds to be included in a regional watershed monitoring network;
  • identify monitoring needs related to scientific objectives;
  • to develop a process for ranking monitoring needs in terms of both site locations and measured parameters;
  • and describe a potential phased implementation.

Greg Utzig, PAg, and Dr. Martin Carver, PEng/PGeo, PAg, provided a proposed approach to expanding the UCB monitoring network, and then the workshop participants actively engaged with the proposal, providing feedback on how it might be improved and implemented.



In 2006, the Pacific Impacts Consortium (PCIC) report for Columbia Basin Trust, Preliminary Analysis of Climate Variability and Change in the Canadian Columbia River Basin: Focus on Water Resources, identified the importance of programs required for water data collection to fill important water data gaps allowing for more informed decision making by all levels of government. A follow up report by PCIC in 2013, Climate Extremes in the Canadian Columbia Basin: A Preliminary Assessment, predicted many of the climate change impacts we are currently experiencing in the Columbia Basin.

In 2017, a report released by the Trust identified the current state of knowledge of water quality and quantity in the Columbia Basin. The report, Water Monitoring and Climate in the Upper Columbia Basin, Summary of Current Status and Opportunities, highlights data gaps, a need for a coordinated monitoring effort, and a “streamlined archival and retrieval technologies” for water data. This report prompted Living Lakes Canada to organize and co-convene a conference in late 2017 — An Open Source Data Dialogue Towards a Columbia Basin Water Monitoring Framework — where the need for a water monitoring framework and data hub was agreed upon by the water data experts from around North America who were in attendance.

Working off information from the aforementioned reports and conference proceedings, Living Lakes Canada began to facilitate the coordination of logistics around filling the identified data gaps, involving volunteer and paid steering committee members, various agencies, industry, academia and community organizations. with the participation and collaboration of First Nations. The Columbia Basin Water Monitoring Collaborative (Collaborative) and the Columbia Basin Water Hub online database were born.

UCB Water Data Hub

The Columbia Basin Water Hub was created out of the need for a central place to gather and archive past, present, and future water quantity and quality data, as well as other types of water data such as glaciers, wetlands, and groundwater. The Water Hub is an open data “library” that can accommodate any file type where anyone can find a variety of data that refers to water within the Columbia Basin. Through this database we aim to house the data gaps that are identified by the Collaborative. The Water Hub will allow for informed, data-driven decision making with our Basin, offering a holistic approach to water management.

LLC is making progress towards finalizing the Columbia Basin Water Hub as a repository for water quantity and quality data, and other water-related data. Recently, we have managed to solidify different categories of data that are important to monitoring groups within the Columbia Basin. We have also created a user manual that guides database users and we have conducted testing of the database with different people from around the Basin.

Currently we are defining data governance for the database, to ensure its long-term success. This includes ensuring provincial and national metadata standards will be met by user groups. Our original fall launch date was delayed due to a longer testing period, but we are working hard to create an accessible, thorough and quality data portal that meets provincial water data standards in order to empower individuals, communities, and decision making groups.

Direct questions about the Columbia Basin Water Hub to Database Manager Santiago Botero:

Long-term data for water decision making

Submitted by Paul Saso, NKLWMP hydrologist

The North Kootenay Lake Water Monitoring Project (NKLWMP) has recently completed another freshet and summer monitoring season at seven streamflow sites and three climate stations. With some of our stations records now stretching back to 2012, we have over eight years of data at some of our stations.

Thanks to the dedicated efforts of our volunteers, staff, and funders, our data record is becoming more and more useful to researchers and decision makers since longer records provide a more in-depth picture of the hydrology of each basin and can provide essential information for making decisions around water resource management, development, fire safety, ecology and more.

As our data record has grown and our stations are doing well, we are now focusing some of our attention on ensuring that potential data users can easily access our data. To achieve this goal, NKLWMP is developing several partnerships:

  • Firstly, we have joined forces with Living Lakes Canada and are excited to have our data available through their Columbia Basin Water Hub, the online database.
  • We are also refining our data and improving our data processing through a new sponsorship from Aquatic Informatics, the software company that makes Aquarius, which we consider to be one of the best hydrometric data processing software systems. They have been very generous to offer us a free subscription to their software and online database where we will also be showcasing our data.

This year the project received funding from the Kootenay Lake Local Conservation Fund, Regional District Central Kootenay Affected Areas Program (RDCK AAP), and the Community Fund of North Kootenay Lake Society (CFNKLS). We are deeply grateful and  appreciative to our volunteers and advisors who have contributed a significant amount of field work hours.

With winter fast approaching, Paul Saso, NKLWMP’s hydrologist, will be heading out to all our sites to download data from our loggers and prepare all the stations for winter. We are also getting ready for another year of snow surveys at our high elevation sites.

Adapting our programs to the COVID-19 climate

As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to affect our daily lives and routines, the Living Lakes Canada team has been adapting where and when possible. We are maintaining our efforts to protect fresh water sources. The climate crisis will continue to impact water, which in turn will continue to impact communities and biodiversity. 

Adhering strictly to public health recommendations, we’ve been able to deliver several training sessions, we’ve continued to use an online format to replace in-person meetings, and since the nature of field work is to be (mostly) alone and outside, we’ve been able to undertake several exciting projects (see our October 2020 News Stream newsletter for recent updates).

The COVID modifications we’re implementing for each program are listed below. If you have any questions, feel free to contact us.

General Operations

The Living Lakes Canada team is still working diligently to deliver all of our projects during the COVID-19 pandemic. Our team members are all working from home and we stay connected online. All Program Managers have adapted their projects to ensure current physical distancing protocols are adhered to. Our priority always has been, and will continue to be, the protection and stewardship of freshwater in Canada. 

~Executive Director Kat Hartwig:


To minimize the risk of COVID-19 in the communities we work and play, we’ve implemented new protocols which include sanitization, performed task hazard analysis on the existing CABIN protocol steps to ensure participant safety and taken extra precautions including closed courses with smaller course sizes. We have been implementing health tracking for staff which includes recording any symptoms for 2 weeks before hosting any groups or traveling to remote communities. The largest challenge has been planned travel to other provinces. All of our courses in Ontario have been postponed to 2021 including Kenora, Thunder Bay, and Ottawa and our Whitehorse course has been postponed indefinitely. For our upcoming targeted eDNA work in collaboration with Selkirk College, the range and extent of “hands on” collaboration and interaction will be subject to current COVID-19 restrictions, but it will still be an informative event for Selkirk students, and allow LLC to continue collecting critical information on important species in the area. We want to thank all of our project partners for adapting to the new protocols to make training and water monitoring still possible.                                        

~STREAM/CABIN Program Manager Raegan Mallinson:

Kootenay Lake Partnership (KLP)

The Kootenay Lake Partnership has been proceeding with training on the Shoreline Guidance Document, from a distance! COVID-19 will be re-shaping what public engagement looks like as we explore online options to connect with communities to ensure that shoreline regulations meet shared objectives and the needs of our communities. 

~KLP Acting Program Coordinator Kristin Aasen:


Foreshore Integrated Management Planning (FIMP)

The FIMP Program continues to implement various measures and precautions to reduce the potential spread of COVID-19. For example, consultants included physical distancing measures, face masks, and the use of copious amounts of hand sanitizer while completing fieldwork this summer (which had its challenges considering most of this work was done from small boats). In one instance, fieldwork was actually delayed to accommodate a self-quarantine due to a potential exposure to COVID-19. 

~FIMP Acting Program Manager Ryan Cloutier:

Columbia Basin Groundwater Monitoring Program

The Groundwater Monitoring Program has been implementing social distancing and safety protocols – both in the office and in the field. The British Columbia Ground Water Association (BCGWA) has compiled COVID-19 information and links that are relevant to BCGWA members and the groundwater community. We have been continuing to follow industry standards and COVID-19 specific guidance for protecting people and our groundwater resources.

~Groundwater Program Manager Carol Luttmer:

Columbia Basin Water Monitoring Collaborative & Water Hub

We are fortunate that most of our work is carried out remotely. However, in order to minimize the risk of exposure and spread of COVID-19, and to protect our team members and database users, we have set up extra precautions. With the release of our database approaching, we anticipated the need to connect with some of our users face to face, so we are setting up online “Office Hours” to minimize contact and still meet with our users. We also adhere to the policies put in place for the Living Lakes office space we work in. Following proper guidelines for hand washing, physical distance, and staying home if sick. We are grateful that we can support the access to important water data through these challenging times.

~ Water Hub Database Manager Santiago Botero:

North Kootenay Lake Water Monitoring Project

Since most of our recording stations are automated and can be serviced by one person, NKLWMP was able continue monitoring streamflow, climate, and snow accumulation around Kootenay Lake during the pandemic without much impact. To protect our volunteers we did decide to miss two of our regular snow course measurements as they require volunteers to stay in remote backcountry cabins that could not be guaranteed to be well-sanitized. We also reduced the amount of volunteer involvement on field visits as a precaution, and continue to be vigilant in our approach to managing the health of ourselves and our volunteers.

~Program Hydrologist Paul Saso:



Long-term groundwater data could inform aquifer response to drought

The summer has been a busy time for the Columbia Basin Groundwater Monitoring Program. We established new Volunteer Observation Wells (VOWs), completed ongoing maintenance and monitoring of existing VOWs, trained volunteers in data collection, and collaborated with other organizations and citizens to share data, plan restoration projects and support studies on groundwater contributions to surface waters. 

Since July we have installed water level loggers in five new VOWs in partnerships with the Village of Canal Flats, McDonald Ranch and Lumber (Grasmere), Village of Radium Hot Springs/Kala Geosciences, and with private landowners near Skookumchuk and Silverton. Many of the well owners are using a mobile App to view and download the data in real-time. You can read about the new observation well in Radium here and the other wells here.

There are now 18 wells that are being actively monitored as part of the Living Lakes Canada Columbia Basin Groundwater Monitoring Program. These wells complement the six Provincial Groundwater Observation Wells in the Columbia Basin that are operated by the provincial government.  Monitoring water levels in as many aquifers as possible gives us local site-specific information that can be used to manage and protect groundwater resources.  

We now have several years of data for some of the wells in the program, which allows for seasonal and yearly trends to be assessed. These trends can be used to determine how groundwater systems respond to short and long-term changes in climate, groundwater extraction, and land use. For example, this summer both the East and West Kootenay Basins reached Drought Level 2 “Dry” in late summer and last year both Basins reached Drought Level 3 “Very Dry” by mid-June. Drought information can be found on the British Columbia Drought Information Portal.  Some aquifers may respond quickly to these drought conditions while others may respond over much larger time scales, such as decades. The groundwater level data collected in this program could help us understand how aquifers respond to drought conditions and ensure aquifers are managed and protected so there is sufficient supply for people and nature.

Into the fall we will be downloading, reviewing and sharing the data from the monitoring wells. Stay tuned for more information. If you would like to monitor or learn about groundwater in your area, need assistance accessing data, or you are interested in partnership opportunities contact us at

For more information on the Groundwater Program, check out this brochure.

STREAM sampling is flowing forward

The STREAM program is continuing to move forward with the field season and monitoring. We have been collaborating with 2019 Year 1 participants virtually to ensure they are confident and ready to hit the streams and collect their Year 2 samples.

All of the 2019 priority watershed participants are collecting samples again this year including Environmental Stewardship Initiative Nation representatives in the Skeena, Blueberry River First Nation in the Peace-Athabasca, various stewardship groups in the Columbia Basin, Watershed Planning Advisory Committees along the Eastern Slopes of the Rockies and the Junction Creek Stewardship Committee in Great Lakes, Northern Lake Huron.

Although our 2020 field season got off to a late start to give us time to adhere to social distancing protocols, participants were eager to get into the streams and learn about benthic macroinvertebrates. On September 1 and 2, Living Lakes Canada hosted a STREAM-CABIN training in Coleman, Alberta. This was a closed course to keep participant numbers low and included representatives from the Oldman Watershed Council, Athabasca Watershed Council, North Saskatchewan Watershed Alliance, Blood Tribe and the Elk River Alliance.

The STREAM project is helping the Oldman Watershed Council assess their river restoration area success. The restoration was to promote off-road vehicles to use provided bridges rather than in-stream crossings ,which leads to increased sedimentation events and riparian slope destabilization. This CABIN course was also part of an Eastern Slopes collaborative that will engage multiple stakeholders in creating a CABIN/DNA reference model for the Eastern Slopes. This project is timely with the Alberta Government rescinding the Coal Policy, which allows open-pit coal mining in the headwaters along the Eastern Slopes.

Living Lakes Canada also led a course with the Binche Whut’en First Nation near Fort St. James (blog and video coming soon). This course was held September 14 to 18 on the Binche Keyoh. Living Lakes Canada collaborated with the Firelight Group on this training to identify water values and build a water monitoring program for the Nation. This course was Living Lakes Canada final CABIN field certification course for 2020.

Stay tuned in Spring 2021 to learn about where the next STREAM-CABIN training will be. In other CABIN news, Environment and Climate Change Canada and the Canadian Rivers Institute CABIN field certifications and online modules will remain closed until Spring 2021.

FIMP lake surveys completed on four lakes

Field work for the Living Lakes Canada Foreshore Integrated Management Planning in the Columbia Basin Program (i.e. Foreshore Inventory and Mapping, or FIM, surveys) was completed by three different consultants on four lakes (Windermere, Moyie, Whiteswan, and Whitetail lakes) this summer. Lake Windermere was surveyed by Ecoscape; Moyie and Whitetail lakes were surveyed by Wood; and finally Whiteswan Lake was surveyed by Masse. All field work was completed in August and September 2020.

Key Program updates include:

  • Living Lakes Canada (LLC) and Lake Windermere Ambassadors joined forces and completed a “one-day intro to FIMP fieldwork” event on Lake Windermere where Program Technical Director Bruce MacDonald shared detailed insights into the strategy, process, and potential pitfalls of completing a FIMP survey. For example, there was great discussion around how to set up your “Shoreline Segments”.  The objective is to — as much as possible — set up segments so that they contain relatively homogenous habitat. That’s because Shoreline Segments are the unit of replication and the spatial scale at which the data fields are assessed at (e.g. the percent gravel of the beach is estimated for the entire segment length).
  • The time allotted for FLNRO staff to complete a voluntary Lake Development Pressure survey came to a close. Those results will be “work-up” this fall and will help direct future FIMP work.
  • LLC is “testing the waters” for interest in a potential FIMP Training Event that would include classroom instruction as well as a field component. Depending on various factors, this training might happen in early October (or potentially be delayed until the spring of 2021).
  • Acting Program Manager Ryan Cloutier and Technical Director Bruce Mac Donald anticipate a busy fall schedule as the three consultants complete their reporting requirements for the four lakes surveyed this summer.

If you have any questions about this program or the lake surveys being undertaken, contact:

Recruiting volunteers for Western Canada Water Ranger Pilot Project

This field season Living Lakes Canada has been partnering with the Water Rangers for the Western Canada Water Ranger Pilot Project. This pilot project uses the Water Rangers TestKits as a user friendly, low barrier tool for volunteers to take a suite of in-situ water quality parameters on lakes and rivers.

The Water Rangers are distributing Water TestKits as part of a research study whose purpose is to better understand how testing the water can improve our relationship with water and nature, and find out who is most likely to take part in citizen science activities. This research is being conducted by Laura Gilbert of the Natural Resource Sciences department at McGill University in partnership with Kat Kavanagh, the Executive Director of Water Rangers, and supervised by Prof. Jan Adamowski of the Bioresource Engineering Department of McGill University.

Volunteers monitor their lake water quality with TestKits designed to be used by people with no scientific training, and these kits have been used by people from 4 to 90 years old. The water data can then be shared on an open-data platform.

This summer, Living Lakes Canada teamed up with local partners including the Lake Windermere Ambassadors, the Slocan Lake Stewardship Society, Friends of Kootenay Lake Stewardship Society and volunteers in Whistler and Vernon to collect water samples once a month across B.C. 

We are hoping to expand this project next year and are looking for additional volunteers who are interested in and committed to taking once-a-month samples on their local water body. Whether you want to study seasonal changes, impacts of a marina on your lake or sedimentation events in your creek, this is a great kit to dip your toes into the world of water monitoring. If you are interested please contact

To learn more about the pilot project, visit the Water Rangers website


Groundwater monitoring equipment installed in Radium on World Water Monitoring Day

Living Lakes Canada was busy monitoring groundwater on September 18, which was World Water Monitoring Day. On September 18, a well in the Village of Radium Hot added to the Living Lakes Canada Columbia Basin Groundwater Monitoring Program.

This well is an example of collaboration and how a well can be used for multiple purposes.  The well was drilled in June 2020 to meet regulatory monitoring requirements for the Village of Radium Hot Springs Wastewater Treatment Plant. Kala Geosciences and Urban Systems recommended that the well could also be used to monitor long-term seasonal and annual groundwater levels to increase our understanding of groundwater conditions in the Columbia Basin. 

Living Lakes Canada collaborated with the Village of Radium Hot Springs and Kala Geosciences to establish the well as a Volunteer Observation Well as part of our Groundwater Monitoring Program. A water level logger has been installed to continuously monitor the level of water in the well. Living Lakes Canada will coordinate the long-term water level monitoring and data management. Village staff have been trained to download the data and can access the data in real-time.  

A big shout out to the Village of Radium Hot Springs, Kala Geosciences, and Urban Systems for making this happen! The work was made possible with funding from the Columbia Basin Trust, Real Estate Foundation of BC, Vancouver Foundation, and in-kind support from the Village of Radium Hot Springs. 

Groundwater Monitoring Program Manager Carol Luttmer, right, oversees the addition of a new well, located in the Village of Radium, to the program.



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