A Cree word kab-tep-was means "the river that calls." A legend tells of a Cree man who was paddling his canoe on the way to his wedding. He heard his name called out. It was the voice of his bride who was still many days travel away. He answered, "Who calls?" A spirit echoed, "Who calls?" He then hurried home only to find out that his bride had died. The last words she spoke were his name. The French settlers who came to Saskatchewan named the river Qu’Appelle, meaning "who calls?"
Global warming increases human health risk due to toxic algae in Canadian Prairie lakes
News ReleaseRelease Date: June 18, 2020 4:00 p.m.
New research by scientists at the University of Regina’s Institute of Environmental Change and Society shows that global warming is increasing levels of toxic algae detrimental to human health. The study was published online, in the journal Limnology and Oceanography Letters.
“Our decade-long project establishes that global warming is increasing toxin levels in Prairie lakes,” says Dr. Peter Leavitt, a Canada Research Chair in Environmental Change and Society and a co-author of the study. “What is particularly worrying is that the chance of exceeding toxin levels that cause acute human health effects has increased to one in four in several lakes in southern Saskatchewan.”
Among the lakes affected are Pasqua and Crooked lakes which border on Pasqua and Cowessess First Nations, respectively, while Buffalo Pound is the drinking water source for the City of Regina.
Leavitt explains that urban growth and intensive agricultural activities increases pollution of freshwaters with nutrients from fertilizers, which increases growth of harmful algae known to produce potent water-borne toxins.
“Warming temperatures due to climate change have caused earlier and larger outbreaks of toxic algae, leading to growing toxicity levels that can pose a high risk of acute health effects according the United States Environmental Protection Agency guidelines,” says Leavitt, who is also a fellow of the Royal Society of Canada.
The team’s research shows that nearly half of the surveyed Prairie lakes had elevated levels of microcystin, a toxin from blue-green algae that appears as green scum in water. Late summer toxin levels were high in both the drinking water reservoir for Regina, Saskatchewan, and in downstream lakes bordering First Nations territories.
The study’s authors, led by University of Regina research fellow Dr. Nicole Hayes, measured historical changes in climate, lake conditions, and toxins from blue-green algae over 11 years in six lakes of the Qu’Appelle River drainage basin. This area covers nearly 40 per cent of southern Saskatchewan, including most of Treat 4 territory, and drains directly into the Assiniboine River and Lake Winnipeg.
“While toxic algae are known to prefer warm waters, ours is the first study to demonstrate increased human health risk due to a longer growing season for algal blooms,” explains Hayes, now a faculty member at University of Wisconsin Stout.
Leavett adds that “the fact that global warming both increases growing season and average water temperatures provides the direct link of climate change to human health.”
Leavitt says that in addition to the Qu’Appelle long-term study, the scientists also conducted a mid-summer survey over 100 lakes in southern Saskatchewan. They found that 59 per cent of lakes exceeded drinking water guidelines for infants, while 42 per cent exceeded adult guidelines, and two lakes were nearly twice the levels known to cause acute human health effects.
Despite these findings, Leavitt notes there is some good news.
“Toxin levels in the Prairies were actually quite a bit lower than in the US Great Plains, where warmer summers promote more intense blooms of harmful cyanobacteria. As well, many Canadian water treatment plants have effective protocols for removing toxins from domestic water supplies.”
Rather than be complacent, Leavitt says that society needs to address the underlying problems.
“Global warming will increase temperatures in southern Saskatchewan by three to five degrees. By studying the Qu’Appelle lakes for nearly 30 years, we have been able to show that a three degree warming will nearly double the amount of toxin-producing cyanobacteria. The warmer it gets, the worse the problem will become,” says Leavitt.
Although the report focused mainly on lakes of southern Saskatchewan, the findings could be relevant to a region of nearly 15 million square kilometers; with similar findings expected for both Manitoba and Alberta.
A copy of the Paper and its Supplementary information is available at https:/doi.org/10.1002/lol2.10164
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About The University of Regina:
The University of Regina—with campuses located on Treaty 4 and Treaty 6 territories, the ancestral lands of the Cree, Saulteaux, Dakota, Lakota and Nakoda nations and the homeland of the Métis—is a comprehensive, mid-sized university that traces its roots back to the creation of Regina College in 1911. Today, more than 16,500 students study within the University's 10 faculties, 25 academic departments/schools, 18 research centres and institutes, and three federated colleges (Campion College, First Nations University of Canada, and Luther College). The University of Regina has an established reputation for excellence and innovative programs that lead to undergraduate, master, and doctoral degrees.
- The University of Regina’s Institute of Environmental Change and Society (IECS) is a world-class research facility build on two decades of research by environmental scientists at University of Regina. The Institute is unique to the Canadian Prairies, and is a member of an elite series of environmental institutes in Canada. IECS provides world-class infrastructure and research expertise in environmental sciences for faculty, students and staff enabling individuals and multidisciplinary groups to conduct cutting-edge scientific research to advance the provincial, national and international research agendas.
- Members of the IECS have studied Prairie lakes since 1994 as part of the Qu’Appelle Valley Long-Term Ecological Research program.
- Now in its 27th season, the Qu’Appelle project is one of Canada’s longest running freshwater research programs. These long-term research programs are essential for understanding the decades-long effects of climate change and human activities such as urbanization, land use change and atmospheric pollution.
Dr. Nicole Hayes
Assistant Professor, University of Wisconsin Stout
Cell: (612) 804-7270
Dr. Peter R. Leavitt FRSC FRS
Canada Research Chair in Environmental Change and Society
Director of Institute of Environmental Change and Society
University of Regina
Cell: (306) 591-2659
Skype: PeterRLeavitt (in Saskatchewan, Canada)
Please note: Dr. Leavitt is currently in COVID19 lockdown near Belfast, Northern Ireland. He can be reached by email, Skype and cell phone. Belfast (GMT-1) is 7 hr ahead of CST.
Information on the Canadian Agricultural Partnership
Lower Qu'Appelle Watershed Stewards would like to give you a quick update on the deliver of the Canadian Agriculture Partnership program (CAP).
As of October 1, 2019 we no longer deliver technical service to our producers within our watershed. This was a decision based on the uptake for the program we had anticipated for - was not there.
Many RM's have likely received a visit or phone call from either Assiniboine Watershed, Lower Souris or Upper Souris Watershed groups that will assist producers in your area or the Ministry of Agriculture has technicians to assist as well.
Producers can call the Agriculture Knowledge Centre at 1-866-457-2377
for assistance and more information.
We also want to clarify that the Ministry of Agriculture along with the Canada Federal Agriculture financially partner to deliver this program to our many producers throughout the province. Ministry of Agriculture then partners with watershed stewardship groups and other agri environmental groups to advertise for them, hold workshops, educate and deliver technical services on the different programs that are available to producers, including funding that may be available for projects.
Recently, there has been a misconception that membership dollars are used solely to deliver this program. This is not true, in our case anyways. Ministry of Agriculture enters into contracts with groups to deliver this program, a contractual arrangement to deliver it. In our case, we were offered $50,000 in the first year and $18,000 in the 2nd year. These funds were used to put on workshops, advertise, and have a technician available, these funds were always kept separate from the membership dollars received as well as the $74,500 operating grant we receive from Water Security Agency.
The membership dollars that LQWS receives, goes to support forging partnerships among citizens, scientists and professionals to foster the management and protection of our lakes, rivers and streams. Our mission statement remains the same of a "long term, stable, high-quality water supply for the people with water quality in the lower Qu'Appelle Lakes that will be able to support recreation, fishing and economic development within the ecological limits of the system".
We will continue to work with stakeholders and our partners including Ministry of Agriculture to continue our work with Source Water Protection and the key action items in our plan. This will include advancing our research work that we have done on the Agriculture Land Use and Water Quality. We understand that water quality is increasingly at risk due to nutrient pollution entering river systems from cities, industrial zones and agricultural areas and are typically the largest non-point source of water pollution. One of the action items will be to explore the potential effects of different Beneficial Management Practices (BMP's) in mitigating water pollution, and understand the functionality and value of the preferred policies and potential barriers to BMP implementation on the land.
We will continue to focus on other action items ranging from water use and future demand, drainage, and the protection of wetland and riparian areas and the overall health of our ecosystem.
LQWS would like to thank you for your past and continued support whether it be in-kind or financial. Without this, we wouldn't be able to continue with our program and research. Remember, our watershed plan was built by you for our future generations.
There are numerous benefits to decommissioning abandoned wells on your property and is an important action to protect the ground water resources below the property. The vital importance of proper well management can not be stressed enough. The safety of your family, the integrity of Ground Water sources and the future success of your farming operation could be in jeopardy unless proper steps are taken.
It is important to stress that water quality may change over time, and therefore one should not rely on past analysis. Water testing should be done routinely, preferably every year, or at least every 2 years under normal circumstances, whereas any unusual situation such as changes in water smell, clarity, taste, or changes in animals eating or drinking habits, loss of performance, or health problems should immediately trigger the need for water testing.
Lower Qu'Appelle Watershed has partnered with the RM's of Spy Hill, Fertile Belt, Lipton and McLeod throughout our watershed to decommission abandoned wells.
The RM of Spy Hill - 100% covered
The RM of Fertile Belt - will cover 100% for the first 10 landowners, after that landowners will be billed for 10%.
The RM of Lipton and McLeod, will also bill the landowners the 10% of the costs.
This is open to all farmers, acreage owners, urban and resort villages.
Please call us at 306.745.9774 before August 15, 2019
Livestock Water Testing - July 31 starting at 9 am - Noon at the RM of Spy Hill office.
Source Water Protection - Rapid Risk Assessment
A high-quality source of water with a sufficient capacity is necessary for all communities. Communities will struggle to access enough quality water to meet their needs. For many communities, their water requirements will only increase in coming years.
Source water protection planning is an essential activity which will allow communities to plan actions to ensure that enough quality water is available for all communities to meet their current and future needs.
LQWS has undertaken a Rapid Risk Assessment of 41 communities within our watershed.
Rapid Risk Assessments were undertaken using methods outlined by the Water Security Agency. All data is compiled into a supplied framework that calculated and systematically displayed the associated risks of each specific water source.
LQWS will identify the communities by highest risk and will work with members that are willing to participate in a Source Water Protection Plan.
For more information contact Roger at 306.740.7602 or call the office at 306.745.9774.
The Lower Qu’Appelle Watershed Stewards Inc. (LQWS) is located in southeastern part of Saskatchewan and covers an approximate area of 17,800 square kilometres. Forming the lower or downstream half of the Qu’Appelle River Basin, the Lower Qu’Appelle River Watershed begins near the Town of Craven to the Manitoba Border.
The most distinctive characteristic of the Lower Qu’Appelle River Watershed is the Qu’Appelle River Valley. The valley originated as a glacial spillway and runs the entire length of the watershed. The Qu’Appelle Valley has a relatively flat bottom with steep side slopes and varies from 1.6 to 3.2 kilometres in width. Our Qu’Appelle River is confined to the Qu’Appelle Valley and flows through six major lakes. From west to east these lakes include Pasqua, Echo, Mission, Katepwa, Crooked and Round Lakes. Major tributaries to the Qu’Appelle River are Loon, Jumping Deer, Pheasant and Kapsovar Creeks. Lesser tributaries include the Pearl, Indianhead, Redfox, Ekapo, Cutarm and Scissor Creeks.