Local Conservation Fund Feature: The North Kootenay Lake Water Monitoring Project

Volunteers taking snow measurements at the Kootenay Ridge snow course site. Photo by Greg Utzig

Most West Kootenay communities depend on small streams for domestic and agricultural water supply. Many of these streams also provide important aquatic and riparian habitat. The ability of these small streams to continue to supply water for human use and to support biodiversity will be increasingly impacted by climate change. Despite the region’s dependence on small streams, current hydrometric and climate monitoring/modelling focuses on watersheds much larger than those supporting most West Kootenay communities.

The North Kootenay Lake Water Monitoring Project (NKLWMP) is working to improve understanding and prediction of how these small- and medium-sized watersheds are going to behave in a changing climate, especially in conditions of extreme high and low precipitation. The NKLWMP began as an initiative of the Kaslo and District Community Forest Society in 2007 and its transition to the NKLWMP was initiated in 2012.

Since 2012, NKLWMP has gradually grown and evolved through the leadership of Kootenay Lake stakeholders, scientists, and technicians based in the West Kootenay. To date, NKLWMP has established and monitors seven hydrometric stations, two high-elevation snow courses and two climate stations (one high-elevation and one-low elevation), with an additional high-elevation climate station to be installed when conditions permit, at the north end of Kootenay Lake. The project has been busy managing the extensive data set it is gathering, while also working to integrate complementary data from other sources and to begin data analysis.

volunteers undertaking a calibration exercise at the Bjerkness hydrometric station. Photo by Martin Carver

By focusing on the monitoring of streamflow and related climate variables, the results from NKLWMP will provide key data for making a range of critical conservation decisions, especially with respect to climate change. The data collected, compiled and analyzed by the project will enable better protection of water supplies and improved prediction of flood frequencies and low water supply. It will also inform land-use planning and development decisions and support forest management, while also enhancing the prediction of catastrophic natural events in the north Kootenay Lake study area.

The project has been made both possible and successful to date thanks to financial support from the Kootenay Lake Local Conservation Fund as well as Columbia Basin Trust, the Regional District of Central Kootenay, Kootenay Savings Credit Union, Nelson & District Credit Union, Columbia Power Corporation, and the Kootenay Country Store Co-op. In-kind support has been received from numerous local volunteers, Kootenay Centre for Forestry Alternatives Society, BC Ministry of Forest, Lands, and Natural Resource Operations, Kaslo & District Community Forest Society, Selkirk College, Powder Hounds Ski Club, and the Johnson’s Landing Community Association.

The Kootenay Conservation Program (KCP) in partnership with the Regional District of Central Kootenay (RDCK) provides funding for projects that benefit conservation in the rural areas around Kootenay Lake through the Kootenay Lake Local Conservation Fund (KLLCF). The purpose of the KLLCF is to provide local financial support for important projects that will contribute to the conservation of our valuable natural areas; one step towards restoring and preserving a healthy environment.