Shuswap water quality issues identified

Water quality sampling shows the Salmon and Shuswap rivers and Mara Lake as areas of concern.

Water quality sampling shows the Salmon and Shuswap rivers and Mara Lake as areas of concern to be addressed through the next stage of the Shuswap Lake Integrated Planning Process.

In a presentation to Salmon Arm city council, SLIPP partners Mike Simpson, regional manager with the Fraser Basin Council, and Paul Demenok, Columbia Shuswap Regional District Area C director and SLIPP steering committee chair, outlined the water quality monitoring effort undertaken over the past three years, and what the collected data has revealed.

While Shuswap Lake is by and large considered OK, there are areas of concern, where bacteria and nutrient levels are or have been in excess for extended periods. These areas include the Salmon and Shuswap rivers and, resulting from the latter, Mara Lake. There have also been water quality issues identified at Christmas Island, where the water is shallow, and in Mara by the Sicamous water intake. Simpson said this related to the flooding that occurred in 2012.

Canoe, Tappen, White and Newsome creeks were all found to have high levels of E. coli, above recreational guidelines. But Simpson said their overall contribution to Shuswap Lake is minimal.

Current data is based on three years of water quality monitoring co-ordinated under SLIPP. Simpson pointed out how this period included a high salmon spawning year, as well as last year’s flooding in Sicamous and around the Shuswap. Over this time, SLIPP monitored about 250 sites/areas of concern. Among them was Salmon Arm’s sewage treatment plant and Nielsen Beach, popular among houseboaters. Regarding the former, Simpson suggested the impact has been minimal. As for the beach, where there was concern for greywater contamination, Simpson said a lot has been done voluntarily to reduce the impact of greywater from houseboats, and the data positively reflects this.

“Both of those rivers (Shuswap and Salmon) contribute up to 100 times more phosphorous than the sewage treatment plant and the houseboats combined, with what we can determine from the data we’ve got so far,” said Simpson.

Asked what might be done to limit runoff from agricultural activities, Simpson emphasized there may be other sources affecting water quality, and explained the whole basis of SLIPP’s water quality monitoring effort was to gather the data to confirm what the numbers were. Addressing those sources would be the next stage.

When asked what the city might be requested to contribute financially towards the program in the coming year, Demenok said it would be premature to offer a figure at this time, as it’s something the steering committee is working out.

“It looks like we’ll have some additional partners who are contributing this year on a funding basis, it looks like we may lose a partner or two…,” said Demenok. “We know that the funding formula right now is not equitable. As you know, my area, Area C, picks up about $140,000 of the $355,000 each year. So we do have to resolve that one at some point.”

More information about SLIPP, including information on water quality in the region, can be found at