New northeast B.C. water research program will gather scientific and indigenous knowledge

A new water research program will gather Western science and Indigenous knowledge data to increase understanding of water quality and water quantity in the Peace region, says Geoscience BC.

The Pilot Collaborative Water Monitoring Program, Northeast BC will install co-located surface water monitoring stations, groundwater wells and climate monitoring stations. Baseline water quantity, water quality, and climate data will be collected at a number of sites and assessed for watershed water balances, surface water flows, and groundwater-surface water interactions. The program team will work with Treaty 8 First Nations to help integrate Western scientific findings and Indigenous knowledge.

“This innovative study will be an important first step into understanding how Traditional Knowledge can be integrated into water management decisions in a region where there is significant demand on water for agriculture, natural gas production, domestic and other uses," said Geoscience BC Executive Vice President & Chief Scientific Officer Carlos Salas

The program addresses recommendations to increase water quantity and quality from the provincial government’s 2019 scientific review of hydraulic fracturing in British Columbia. The report highlighted Treaty 8 First Nations’ concerns regarding water quality and quantity, along with a need to incorporate Traditional Knowledge into work in the area.

Pilot Collaborative Water Monitoring Program
The proposed Pilot Collaborative Water Monitoring Program study area in northeastern British Columbia is outlined in red. First Nation communities are indicated by purple squares. Each of the watersheds has been ranked based on disturbance levels, which align with the Regional Strategic Environmental Assessment process. The colour of the watershed boundaries and names indicate the level of disturbance: orange is high, yellow is medium and green is low. - GeoscienceBC

The projects are led by researchers from the BC Oil and Gas Commission (OGC), Matrix Solutions, the Ministry of Energy, Mines and Low Carbon Innovation, and Shell Canada Ltd. Teams from Blueberry River First Nations, Doig River First Nation, Halfway River First Nation, McLeod Lake Indian Band, Saulteau First Nations and West Moberly First Nations have been invited to join the program. Participating First Nations will receive data collection, sampling and station maintenance training.

“Water has a spiritual nature to our people. Some waters are home to our myth Spirits and channel our voices as echoes, memories and more," said Nathan Paul Prince, Traditional Land Use Co-ordinator for the McLeod Lake Indian Band. "This program is a helpful step because it gathers Traditional Knowledge and explores how it can be considered alongside Western science in decision making.”

The independent data and reports from the program will be peer-reviewed and made publicly available. Specifically, the surface water data will be incorporated as part of an updated Northeast Water Tool (NEWT), one of the resources used by the OGC to consider water licence and short-term use applications. Data from the program can also be used for further groundwater-surface water interaction studies and watershed water balance studies.

— with files from Daily Oil Bulletin

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