Why Learn About Water and Watersheds?
Because the City of Prince George relies on groundwater for its water supply, protecting our river valleys is extremely important. This is done at the "watershed-scale" level through a planning approach where we balance human activity – like development – with preserving our natural resources.
Every creek and drainage ditch in the city – including the storm sewer system – is a component of the Nechako and Fraser River watershed. In addition to our two magnificent rivers, Prince George is also home to several lakes, creeks, and urban streams that provide spawning, rearing, and winter habitat for fish and other wildlife species. All of these are also linked to our groundwater resources that, in turn, provide us with clean and drinkable water.
What be done to Protect Local Water And Watersheds?
Protecting our watersheds has important environmental benefits and also helps safeguard the availability of safe drinking water. Everyone in the city plays a role in ensuring our water sources are sustainable for generations to come.
Stormwater quality is greatly affected by what it picks up off the ground as it runs down roads and into the storm sewer. Water entering the sewer is not treated and discharges into natural watercourses where fish and other wildlife reside. Sediment and mud, salts, pesticides, fertilisers, grease, oil from vehicles, and other contaminants are picked up by stormwater runoff and eventually end up in fish habitat.
Whatever goes down the catch basin and into the storm drain flows directly into our creeks and watershed. Learn more by watching the following videos to find out how to protect our local streams, rivers, and aquatic habitats.
Tip #1: Washing your vehicle
When washing vehicles, all soap, dirt, and sediment flow directly into rivers, streams and fish habitat from the storm drains.
Tip #2: Riding your dirt bike or quad
All mud sent down the storm drain goes directly into the homes and habitat of fish and aquatic life, clouding the environment and making breathing very difficult.
Tip #3: Dispose of trash properly
Any garbage or litter that is not properly disposed of could go down the storm drain and right into the home and habitat of fish and aquatic life.
Make sure trash or litter is picked up and properly disposed as wildlife can ingest or become smothered by these hazardous materials. Learn how to prevent litter from entering the storm water system
Tip #4: Prevent any leaks
Check vehicles consistently for leaks and have them repaired right away. Recycle any old oil, gasoline, and other chemicals at an approved recycling facility. Prevent any spillage when filling up at the gas station. An oil or gas leak is picked up by rain and washed into our storm basins, and eventually head into rivers, creeks, and aquatic habitat.
Learn how to prevent leaks and harmful liquids from entering our watersheds
Tip #5: Prevent soil erosion
Other tips to protect streams
Incorporate simple solutions into day-to-day activities to help protect stormwater quality:
- Don't wash cars on the driveway. Consider using a commercial car wash where water goes into the treated sanitary sewer system.
- Don't spray clean driveways to remove salts and dirt, as the water will end up flowing into the storm drain.
- Avoid getting mud around storm sewers. Rinse muddy equipment away from storm drains and consider washing on gravel or vegetation to allow sediment to filter out.
- Use as little pavement as possible. Gravel, brick, or interlocking pavers allow rain to soak back into the ground rather than run off over solid concrete or asphalt.
- Direct rain gutters into rain barrels or onto the lawn.
- Dispose of household hazardous wastes such as paints, motor oils, antifreeze, and batteries at recycling collection depots.
- Collect and properly dispose of pet wastes.
- Reduce fertiliser and pesticide use.
- Frequently check for and fix leaks on vehicles, lawn mowers, snowblowers, and other gas-operated machinery.
What is Water Conservation?
Water conservation planning's goal is to achieve efficient water use in the City of Prince George. While water conservation is often thought of as being restrictive and residents may associate it with personal inconvenience and rationing, it's not just about using less water. Conservation also involves carefully managing water resources, and using water more efficiently.
In 2015, Prince George residents used, on average, 611 litres of water per capita per day (L/c/d), which is 42 per cent higher than the provincial average of 353 L/c/d and 56 per cent higher than the national average of 274 L/c/d.
What is the Water Cycle and What are Water Systems?
The water cycle continuously re-circulates and 'recycles' water between the Earth's surface and the atmosphere. Because of this and the fact water is a finite resource, it's crucial we maintain water quality as it transfers throughout the environment.
The City of Prince George monitors and protects our urban water systems – drinking water, waste water, and storm water – through quality sampling, waste discharge permits, development permit areas, and bylaws. Learn more about how we keep the water in our systems free from contaminants below:
Left: An illustration of a well house beside the Nechako River and how it accesses City drinking water from an aquifer.
Our city relies on groundwater for its water supply. Over 80 per cent of our water wells tap into aquifers that are refilled by the Nechako River. These aquifers provide nearly 18 billion litres of water each year to six municipal wells. Treated, safe-to-drink water is pumped to and stored in 14 service reservoirs throughout the city where it eventually makes its way to homes either directly from the reservoirs or through water supply well pumps.
It is important to note our groundwater source is vulnerable to contamination. One of the ways to fight against tainting this valuable resource is by decreasing water usage. A reduction in water demand slows the movement of any pollutants into and through the aquifers. This makes any water that does flow through easier to treat to avoid potential contamination.
In order to preserve our drinking water's safety and quality, the City regulates development within groundwater capture zones to reduce the risk of contamination. Developing inside a
Groundwater Protection Development Permit Area
may require a
Groundwater Protection Development Permit.
wastewater - source control
Wastewater Source Control Program plays an important role in protecting our environment. Some of the its objectives include:
- Protecting the public from sewer materials that are toxic, flammable, or explosive;
- Protecting sewer infrastructure from corrosive substances like acids or materials like grease and sand or rocks that can clog the sewer system and lead to backups;
- Protecting wastewater treatment from substances or conditions that might disturb the treatment process;
- Protecting the environment from substances that cannot be removed through treatment;
- Improving the quality of solid waste to make it easier to transform into soil improvement materials.
City staff work with local businesses and residents to restrict what can be discharged into our sewer system. This is done through sewer bylaws, waste discharge permits, inspections, audit sampling, and public education.
Waste Discharge Permits
Waste Discharge Permits are issued under the City's
Sanitary Sewer Bylaw to operations that discharge – or plan to discharge – high loads of wastewater containing chemical contaminants into the sanitary sewer. Permit holders are required to follow permit conditions, including sampling and testing their waste, recording flows, and reporting regularly to the Source Control Program where staff will perform inspections and audits to ensure permit compliance.
Learn more about the City's
Sanitary Sewer system.
stormwater and drainage
Rainfall, snowmelt, and stormwater runoff from road, parking lots, and industrial areas enter the storm sewer system and eventually flow into our city's streams and watercourses. Any water than enters a catch basin or drainage ditch is not treated and may contain harmful contaminants like sediment, oil, grease, salt, metals, and hydrocarbons. This is why it's important to be mindful of our impact on stormwater quality.
The City restricts contaminant discharge to the storm sewer system through the
City of Prince George Storm Sewer System Bylaw No. 2656, 1974.
Learn more about the City's
Storm Sewer system.
Because water quality is vital to people, fish, plants, and animals, the BC Ministry of Environment established strict water quality standards for municipalities, industry, and residents. Learn more about Provincial standards and best practices for
Urban Stormwater Management.
What are Riparian Areas and Why are They Important?
Riparian habitats are the immediate lands – such as river banks – surrounding lakes, ponds, creeks, and rivers where moist soils and water-loving plant species protect the stream environment. In addition to serving as habitat for wildlife, riparian areas also play a role in the City's water management strategy through vital ecosystem support by:
- Providing stream bank stability;
- Filtering and purifying water;
- Soaking up and storing water during heavy rain or snowfall;
- Breaking down contaminants.
Residents who have a riparian area in their yard can do their part to protect the surrounding stream by:
- Leaving all trees and shrubs in place;
- Not piling compost, lawn clippings, or debris in the area;
- Not using fertilisers
- Not building sheds or similar structures in the riparian area without prior approval from the City of Prince George.
The City's goals to enhance and protect its watercourses include plans designed to:
- Preserve remaining riparian areas along city creeks and to encourage restoration of riparian areas on both public and private lands.
- Improve water quality in creek systems and reduce instances of pollution from single and multiple sources.
- Support groups and events like BC River's Day, REAPS, and the Nechako Watershed Roundtable to help educate the public on local water-related issues.
Why Learn About Erosion and Sediment Control?
Trees, shrubs, grasses, and other plants maintain soil stability by keeping it in place through root systems. Soil with vegetation growing in it promotes water absorption and restricts soil movement. Removing such plant life exposes soil, contributes to rapid surface water run-off, and quickens erosion. Vegetation removal is the leading cause of accelerated erosion and sediment mobilization, which can have damaging impacts on infrastructure and the environment.
The City addresses erosion and sediment control issues resulting from development through a permit application process requiring each submission to have Erosion and Sediment Control Plans prepared by a qualified environment professional. Implementing control measures before vegetation is removed from soil is critical to mitigate the effects of sediment mobilization.
what is erosion and sediment control?
Erosion is the natural process where soil (or rock) is worn away by flowing water, ice, or wind. Construction activity that strips or removes soil-stabilising vegetation like trees and shrubs can increase the rate of soil erosion and sediment mobilization by one or two orders of magnitude.
Erosion and Sediment Control (ESC) prevents sediment from contaminating stormwater and overland water flow by controlling the amount of soil exposed during construction. Sediment is a primary pollutant in watercourses. It can have a profoundly negative impact on aquatic habitats because sediment can bind with toxic pollutants like heavy metals. This is why, to protect aquatic environments, it is important to limit the amount of sediment entering the storm system and local watercourses.
what are the impacts of erosion?
Increased sediment mobilization can:
- Disturb or destroy fish and invertebrate habitats by smothering spawning beds and incubating eggs. Sediment can also clog gills and suffocate aquatic animals.
- Fill in or block juvenile fish and invertebrate rearing habitats.
- Decrease water clarity, which impairs sight and the ability of fish to feed.
- Decrease bank stability.
- Deposit sediment in stream channels, which can change channel morphology and lead to increased flooding.
- Block stormwater catch basins and outfalls, which can also lead to increased flooding.