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Evaluating water quality and biotic indices in the Lower Little Bow River, Alberta Open Access


Other title
Little Bow River
environmental index
fish index of biotic integrity
fish community assessment
water quality index
Type of item
Degree grantor
University of Alberta
Author or creator
Scott, Janet L
Supervisor and department
Chanasyk, David (Renewable Resources)
Examining committee member and department
Jeffrey, Scott (Resource Economics and Environmental Sociology)
Naeth, M. Anne (Renewable Resources)
Miller, Jim (external, Agriculture and Agrifood Canada)
Department of Renewable Resources

Date accepted
Graduation date
Master of Science
Degree level
Environmental indices are useful tools for distilling significant messages out of complex monitoring datasets. A case study of Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada’s Watershed Evaluation of Beneficial Management Practices (WEBs) micro-watershed on the lower Little Bow River, Alberta, was used to address two topics: modifications of the Canadian Water Quality Index (CWQI) to provide ecologically relevant monitoring information at the micro-watershed scale, and inclusion of fish species and habitat assessments to support WEBS’ broader evaluation of aquatic ecosystem health. Water quality data collected between 2004-2007 from five study reaches on 5.5 km of the lower Little Bow River were used to calculate CWQI scores under two scenarios: seasonal vs. annual index calculation; and total vs. sub-index (i.e., biological, chemical, and physical) divisions of parameters. Fish diversity and habitat information was collected in a single season in 2009. Overall, water quality ranged from good to poor. Summer criteria exceedances in fecal coliform, Escherichia coli, dissolved oxygen, and total suspended solids produced marginal scores for summer and annual periods, and poor scores for physical and biological sub-indexes. Fish collection found largely generalist warmwater fish species, including minnows, suckers, and northern pike, so index criteria suited to these species were employed. Habitat permanence relied upon maintenance of minimum instream flows, bank stability, and access to overwintering habitats. Both seasonal and sub-index methods are recommended for use in micro-watershed monitoring as they produced wider score ranges than the standard CWQI and can inform reservoir management of stream flows when related to local fish requisites.
Permission is hereby granted to the University of Alberta Libraries to reproduce single copies of this thesis and to lend or sell such copies for private, scholarly or scientific research purposes only. Where the thesis is converted to, or otherwise made available in digital form, the University of Alberta will advise potential users of the thesis of these terms. The author reserves all other publication and other rights in association with the copyright in the thesis and, except as herein before provided, neither the thesis nor any substantial portion thereof may be printed or otherwise reproduced in any material form whatsoever without the author's prior written permission.
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