Water science

Through our research we are able to identify sources of pollution and contaminants of concern, and contribute to regulatory and management practices. 

Group of people working together collecting water for sampling.
Photo by Alex Harris / Raincoast Conservation Foundation.
Sam Scott and Peter Ross standing in front of the future mobile lab, which is a grey sprinter van.
Read more about Peter Ross and Samantha Scott. Photo by Alex Harris / Raincoast Conservation Foundation.

Science to inform conservation

Science informs action, and our Healthy Waters program will deliver much-needed data that will inform the protection and restoration of watersheds in BC. From measuring the tire-related chemical 6-PPD Quinone in streams and rivers, to detecting the artificial sweetener sucralose from human waste in fish habitat, our findings enable the identification and ranking of contaminant threats to fish habitat. This will, in turn, inform targeted solutions within and across watersheds.

Our team will sift through complex datasets of over 600 contaminants of concern in each water sample, summarize and interpret findings in the context of risk to fish and fish habitat, and contribute to policies, practices, and regulations at the local and national level.

Our research projects

Healthy Waters will not only interpret contaminant findings for our watershed-based partners and members of the public, we will provide scientific leadership for a number of research projects led by Healthy Waters staff, graduate students, and colleagues. We are currently participating in targeted research projects on topics including:

  • Contaminants of concern in killer whales
  • Road runoff and the tire-related chemical 6-PPD Quinone in fish habitat
  • Microplastics in storm sewers and fish habitat
An underwater view of a school of salmon swimming above the gravel with shores and trees and forests in the background.
Photo by Fernando Lessa.
Drone image of Sumas Prairie farm fields flooded.

Responding to the unexpected

Since its inception, Healthy Waters has also responded to unexpected situations and delivered timely and responsive assessments of water quality. In November 2021, an atmospheric river and snowmelt at upper elevations, led to catastrophic floods in the Fraser Valley. Our Healthy Waters team deployed to affected areas in the Sumas Lake area of the Lower Fraser Valley, sampled and analyzed water for contaminants of concern. Our study found that fish habitat was degraded during the floods by nutrients, fecal coliform, metals, hydrocarbons, pesticides, perfluorinated substances, and pharmaceuticals. 

Our 2022-23 pilot study of basic water quality in seven streams discharging into W̱E¸NÁ¸NEĆ/ Hwune’nuts (Fulford Harbour) on Salt Spring Island provided insight into land-based sources of metals and fecal coliform to the marine waters around the Sea Gardens. The planned restoration of the Sea Gardens in by the W̱SÁNEĆ Nations and Hul’q’umi’num speaking Nations highlights the need for water quality analyses that identify impacts from adjacent watersheds. Healthy Waters partnered with the Salt Spring Island Water Preservation Society and Transition Salt Spring (Marine Stewardship), with support from the W̱SÁNEĆ Nations and Hul’q’umi’num speaking Nations, and Parks Canada for this timely project.

Science and reports

Results of our research and monitoring can be found in user-friendly reports as well as scientific publications. Here is a sampling of our recent work.