Winter Water Quality Assessment of the Whitemud River and Willow Creek Watersheds

Cumulative landscape disturbances have resulted in widespread declines of lotic fisheries across Alberta, and the nutrient inputs from surrounding land management practices have been linked to anoxic conditions in Alberta streams. Low dissolved oxygen (DO) levels in winter can be a significant limiting factor for fish production, particularly for cold-water fish species in Alberta, such as Arctic grayling, bull trout, Athabasca rainbow trout, and westslope cutthroat trout. Past measurements suggest winter DO falls below the federal guidelines for cold water species in some Alberta streams, and approach sub-lethal levels in others. In winter 2016/17 we began broad-scale monitoring across two watersheds to determine if winter DO levels may become limiting for Arctic grayling in the Whitemud River watershed of NW Alberta, and for westslope cutthroat trout in the Willow Creek watershed in SW Alberta. We installed datasondes to monitor under-ice DO levels at eight locations on the Whitemud River, and six locations on Willow Creek and conducted bi-weekly measurements with hand-held DO meters at all datasonde stations, and on all major tributaries entering the mainstems. Based on datasonde data, we observed unsuitable DO levels at 5 of 7 locations on the Whitemud River mainstem, and 3 of 5 locations on the Willow Creek mainstem.  


Alberta Environment and Parks, Cooperating landowners

Annual Summaries

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Title Year Category
Winter Water Quality Assessment of the Whitemud River and Willow Creek Watersheds 2017-2018 1