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Watershed Systems Research Program Student Posters


Catfish Creek Watershed

Title: Comparison of hydrologic dynamics in forested and agricultural sub-watersheds of a large mixed-use Prairie watershed

Authors: Hayla Petzold, Genevieve Ali

Summary: The natural history of the Prairies includes the large-scale human modification of landscape biology and hydrology from first settlement to present. Forested land has been and continues to be lost and runoff is increasingly artificially drained in this intensively managed region. The impact of such modifications on hydrological dynamics has yet to be understood in such a way that measurable landscape alterations (i.e., area of forest lost, hydraulic capacity of artificial surface drains) can be linked to quantifiable alterations in event storm hydrographs or hydrological regimes. Here we focused on a large mixed-used watershed to compare the temporal hydrological dynamics of forested sub-watersheds to those of neighbouring, deforested agricultural sub-watersheds within a similar geologic and pedologic setting.

The Catfish Creek Watershed (CCW) drains a 600 km2 area located approximately 90 km north-east of Winnipeg (Manitoba, Canada; see Fig. 1a) and has been extensively impacted by human activities including the continued clearing of forested land for cultivation. It is characterized as a low-relief, agro-forested watershed (~45% forest, ~40% crops, ~10% swamp, ~5% other, see Fig. 1b). Surface runoff is managed in part by a network of artificial drains in both the forested and cultivated portions of this watershed. The lower CCW is naturally-vegetated by parkland forest and swamp. The eastern edge of the upper watershed is also forested and of greater relative relief, while to the west the landscape is dominated by intensive, large-scale agricultural operations on a near-level landscape.

Title: Hydrologic dynamics of a large Prairie watershed: Looking for runoff controls in an engineered, mixed use landscape.

Authors: Hayla Petzold, Genevieve Ali

Summary: Despite intense and continued human modification of the Prairie landscape, the consequences of this hydrological management on the runoff regime remain poorly understood. Specifically, previous research carried out in Prairie watersheds has not explored threshold rainfall-runoff behaviour as has been done in pristine, higher relief hillslopes and catchments. To address this, we focus here on a large mixed-used Prairie watershed for high temporal resolution hydrometric and meteorologic monitoring.


Authors: Amber Penner, Genevieve Ali, Cody Ross

Summary: A greater understanding of hydrological processes is needed to interpret patterns present in water quality data under various climatic conditions (wet, intermediate, dry), seasons (spring, summer, fall), and events (snowmelt-driven, rainfall-triggered). This is especially true in intensely managed Prairie watersheds which are vulnerable to faster flows due to engineered stormwater-control infrastructure (surface drains) and high nutrient loading from agricultural fields. The extent to which those water management practices determine short-term, medium-term and long-term water quality dynamics remains unclear. Here we relied on high-frequency meteorological data, water level fluctuation data, and nutrient concentrations data to examine the relationships between runoff processes and water quality dynamics in a typical Prairie landscape. Three specific objectives were pursued: (1) compare sub-watershed input- output dynamics; (2) analyze nutrient export dynamics as a function of flow rise and flow recession periods; and, (3) determine the season-averaged time lags between flow peaks and nutrient concentration peaks.

Title: Investigating Spatiotemporal changes in water quality across a nested system of intensively managed prairie watersheds

Authors: Amber Penner, Genevieve Ali, Halya Petzold

Summary: The study of spatial and temporal patterns of watershed properties can provide a greater understanding of the drivers of hydrologic change. This is especially true for water quality dynamics that are known to vary: 1) temporally as a function of antecedent conditions (wet, intermediate, dry), seasons (spring, summer, fall), and events (snowmelt-­‐driven, rainfall-­‐triggered), and 2) spatially as a function of adjacent and upstream land-­‐use practices and topographical characteristics. Those spatiotemporal dynamics are especially understudied in cold and intensively managed Prairie landscapes. Here we focused on a typical, mixed use Prairie watershed for which weekly average nutrient concentrations are available for the 2013 open water season: weekly correlation coefficients were calculated between nutrient concentrations and watershed characteristics such as land use and land cover proportions, mean watershed slope, and soil properties. This week-specific correlation analysis was done to allow the assessment of a) which landscape characteristics influence water quality the greatest, and b) whether the influence exerted by specific landscape characteristics varies from week to week.

Title: Comparison of sampling strategies to monitor water quality in Prairie Watersheds.

Authors: Cody A. Ross, Genevieve Ali

Summary: Most water-quality monitoring programs are characterized by low-frequency sampling with variable intervals (Neal et al., 2012). In Manitoba, Conservation and Water Stewardship collects water from streams and creeks approximately four times a year with the intention of capturing seasonal water-quality fluctuations. This type of sampling is however unable to capture changes in water-quality attributes that take place at short timescales. Recent research suggests that significant fluctuations in water-quality occur across a wide range of timescales (e.g., Kirchner, 2003; Feng et al., 2004; Kirchner et al., 2004; Halliday et al., 2012). Particularly, the diffuse transfer of nutrients in watersheds, particularly phosphorus, has been shown to occur on an hourly scale (Halliday et al., 2012). Additionally, in the Prairies, both snowmelt on frozen ground and intense thunderstorms are short-lived and tend to result in hydrological responses in a matter of hours rather than days or weeks, thus challenging the representativeness of water samples collected outside of these critical hydrological events (Zhao and Gray, 1997).

    The general objective of this project was to compare sampling strategies for water-quality monitoring in Prairie watersheds. The comparison was guided by three specific research questions regarding:
  1. Water quality parameter sensitivity
  2. - Do specific water quality parameters range in sensitivity to hydrologic processes typical of Prairie landscapes?
  3. Sampling time
  4. - Does sampling time impact the hydrochemical information obtained from water-quality analysis?
  5. Data representativeness
  6. - Does an increase in sampling interval length necessarily result in the reduction of data representativeness?

Little Bow River Watershed

Title: Preliminary assessment of sediment sources in the Lower Little Bow River watershed using Diffuse Reflectance Spectrometry

Authors: Melody E.G. Caron, David A. Lobb, Kui Liu, Jim J. Miller, Philip N. Owens

Summary: The Lower Little Bow River watershed was one of the study sites in Agriculture and Agri-food Canada’s Watershed Evaluation of BMPs (WEBs) program. The 55,664-hectare Lower Little Bow River Watershed is located within the Oldman River Basin in southwest Alberta (Figure 1). The Lower Little Bow River WEBs project focused on a micro-watershed (2,565 hectares) north of Lethbridge (Figure 2). Land use in the Lower Little Bow River watershed includes a wide range of agricultural activities and intensities such as cow-calf operations on native range, dryland farming, intensive irrigated row crop farming, and intensive livestock operations. Sediment in the river impairs water quality and is suspected of causing problems with farm irrigation systems which draw water from the river. There are several potential sources of sediment along the reach of the river studied in the WEBs project, and this research was undertaken to assess their importance.

Seine River Watershed

Title: Spatiotemporal Variability of Water Quality and Stable Water Isotopes in an Intensively Managed Prairie Watershed

Authors: Erin Untereiner,Genevieve Ali, Trish Stadnyk

Summary: Eutrophication, has been identified as an important water quality issue for freshwater systems (Barlow, et al., 2004). Factors impacting watershed management in Prairie landscapes include extensive land drainage networks (Seine-Rat River Conservation District, 2009), non point source loading from land use practices (Kaste, et al., 2006), and lack of water quality data (Dawson, et al., 2012). Studies indicate that watershed analysis and data collection can become less intensive and more reliable as stable water isotopic ratios offer high spatial and temporal resolution (Dawson, et al., 2012).

The overall goal of this research was to examine the spatiotemporal variability and usefulness of stable water isotopes in a typical, intensively managed Prairie watershed by:

  1. Assessing the differences in stable water isotopic ratios between natural waterways and artificial waterways such as drains and diversions
  2. Quantifying the strength of the relationship between topographic and land use characteristics and stable water isotopic ratios
  3. Predicting water quality (PO concentrations) using stable water isotopic ratios.

South Tobacco Creek Watershed

Title: Visualizing the variability of small scale subsurface water flow in the South Tobacco Creek watershed

Authors: Lauren Timlick, Genevieve Ali

Summary: Though overland flow is the most dramatic aspect of a flood, a crucial part of quantitatively analyzing the timing, duration, and intensity of a flooding event lies in understanding the effect that subsurface flow has within a watershed. This experiment was conducted in order to observe and analyze subsurface flow patterns in the South Tobacco Creek region of the Manitoba escarpment, which is a sub-watershed of the Morris River watershed and the greater Lake Winnipeg watershed. Previous studies (e.g., Weiler & Hannes, 2003; Bogner et al., 2008; Schlater & Huwe, 2005; Allaire et al., 2009) have successfully sprinkled dyed water onto exposed soil profiles to examine vertical and lateral subsurface flow patterns. In the experiment described here, Acid Blue #9 dye was dispensed through rainfall simulation and interval flooding in order to examine the variability of subsurface flow patterns at a relatively small (plot) scale.

Title: Investigating the Potential of Electromagnetic Induction for Mapping Multi-Depth Soil Moisture Variations in Southern Manitoba

Authors: Shelby Perreault,Genevieve Ali, Ian Ferguson

Summary: Canadian prairie watershed. Soil moisture (SM) information is important for many aspects of hydrology; however, current methods for collecting multi-depth SM data can be costly and non-representative, and understanding the spatial and temporal variability of SM remains challenging (Western et al., 1998; Reedy and Scanlon, 2003; Teuling and Troch, 2005; Vereecken et al., 2008; Grote et al., 2010). Alternatively, previous research has suggested that the apparent electrical conductivity (ECa) of a soil is often highly correlated to its soil water content and can be measured non-invasively through the use of electromagnetic induction meters (McNeill, 1980b; Reedy and Scanlon, 2003; Tromp-van Meerveld and McDonnell, 2009; Zhu et al., 2010).

Research Objectives:

i. Investigate the spatial and temporal variability of SM and ECa

ii. Examine the relationship between SM and ECa on a depth-average and depth-specific basis, over a range of wetness conditions.

Studies encompassing these aspects, especially the depth-specific variability of SM and ECa, have not been attempted for a Canadian Prairie watershed

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