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UBC Theses and Dissertations

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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Impacts of agricultural drainage and an assessment of diffused aeration in the Serpentine River, British Columbia Robinson, S. Thomas


Urban expansion of the City of Vancouver has resulted in increased land development of the municipality of Surrey, and more intensive agriculture on the remaining farmland. From 1980 to 1984 five different fish kills in the Serpentine River attributed to low dissolved oxygen were thought to be caused by a combination of agricultural discharges, high autumn water temperatures, as well as rainfall and river flow patterns. In 1985 an experimental instream aeration system was installed in a lower reach of the river in an attempt to provide additional oxygen during the critical autumn period. This study was undertaken to determine the extent of the agricultural drainage discharge problem. Weekly sampling from July to December, 1987, revealed that organic pollutional loading from dairy farms was high. Nutrients loadings in the river supported a heavy algal growth which resulted in an oxygen deficit during autumn algal die-off and decay. Although the flushing of farm ditches normally exerts an additional oxygen demand on the river, this was not observed in 1987 because the major autumn rains began on Oct 30, and lower water temperatures prevented a rapid exertion of the biodegradable oxygen demand. Implementation of source control of farm animal wastes is strongly recommended, along with a program of public education on conservation and management of natural habitat. Harvesting of filamentous algae in the river may eventually prove necessary for successful rehabilitation as diffused river aeration appears to be having a very small effect.

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