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Toward an information framework for water quality planning : The Fraser River main stem case study Nickel, Jack Michael

Abstract

This study examines the existing practice and legislative base for water quality management at both federal and provincial levels in British Columbia and shows that the movement toward preventative-management presently underway will lead to increasing demands for systems oriented data and methods of interpreting this data for planning purposes. An information framework is developed for stream-quality assessment of flowing surface waters based on a one-dimensional representation of the water system, a finite segment approach to data organization, and a combination dilution model/ materials balance approach to system simulation and analysis. The approach is designed to use available data and the framework is computerized. The analysis framework is applied to the main stem of the Fraser River above Hope. Although a large amount of data has been collected in this watershed, diverse agency objectives and lack of co-ordination in data collection programs limits the analysis to ten river segments and nine water quality parameters; flow, pH, temperature, specific conductance, dissolved sodium, suspended solids, total iron, total managanese, and total copper. Using the best data presently available, data gaps, in-stream behavior, assimilative capacity estimates based on standards and quality changes induced by development are discussed for several of these parameters as an illustration of the framework's use as a research and planning tool. Water quality data collected during 1976 for regulatory and system surveillance purposes were assembled and used to simulate the behavior of conservative materials or to quantify the observed deviation from conservative behavior. These deviations identify and assist analysis of the aggregate quality influences of non-specific source inputs and/or in-stream transformation processes. They also allow limited prediction of the water quality changes associated with water and related resource developments. The study shows that very little data has been collected in the upper reaches of the Fraser main stem, that unaccounted dilution can have as great an effect on water quality as accounted material inputs, that grab samples are not adequate representations of mean monthly quality, that quality degradation from industrial discharge below Prince George is largely offset "by the dilution influence of the Nechako River, and that a scouring followed by downstream deposition phenomenon can he observed through a materials balance analysis. Also, it is shown that new waste loads and dams can have a significant effect on quality. It is recommended that the approach developed here be adopted as an aid to water quality management, surveillance network design and data interpretation. A joint federal/provincial committee should be established under the Canada Water Act to co-ordinate management effort. The provincial government should establish a water resource planning component in the Environment and Land Use Committee Secretariat' to develop planning procedures and integrate these procedures with land use planning. A pilot water resource management study should begin in each resource management region of the province. Future work should concentrate on the development of water quality standards and mechanisms of public input to water resource planning studies.

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