By Pauline Kerr
A lake is only as clean as what goes into it. Saugeen Conservation carefully monitors what flows into Lake Huron, taking samples at several places in the watershed eight months of the year. Brittany Taylor, water resources technician, started at Saugeen Conservation in 2014, first as a summer student and later as a fulltime staff member. Taylor has a science degree (BScH) from the University of Guelph. For her, braving slippery stream banks and giant mosquitoes to collect samples and monitor water quality is the perfect job – the watershed is beautiful, she said, and she has a passion for protecting it. She was at Geddes Park last week, one of 29 surface water sampling sites. Such sampling is done monthly, both for the conservation authority and the province. The good news is the water quality near the North Penetangore bridge is what Taylor described as “normal, what you’d expect this time of year.” It’s also one of the 10 sites where samples are taken for benthic monitoring (checking the bugs that live at the bottom of the stream). The samples are preserved for analysis in the winter. Taylor explained that biomonitoring (“counting bugs”) tells a lot about the health of a stream. When doing surface water samples, Taylor
checks temperature, conductivity, dissolved oxygen and turbidity. The sample is sent away to a private lab where it’s analysed for such things as potassium, phosphorous, nitrates, metals and E. coli, things found in agricultural runoff. “We like to keep an eye on riparian vegetation,” Taylor said. That’s the vegetation and ecosystem along the river bank. Because it absorbs a lot of nutrients, it’s key to the health of waterways. “Naturalizing the shoreline helps with nutrient loading,” Taylor said. The quality of surface water is affected by many things – climate change, extreme weather, nutrient loading and rising temperatures, said Taylor. Toxic bluegreen algae is the result of nutrient loading. There are a number of ways to ensure the samples Taylor takes continue to show normal readings. Taylor said there are regulations about application rates for anyone spraying fields. Excluding livestock from all streams is also important. And riparian planting along the banks of streams and rivers helps a lot. “We’re very fortunate to live in such a beautiful watershed,” Taylor said. “We shouldn’t take it for granted.” For further information about keeping waterways healthy, and the sampling programs done by Saugeen Conservation, contact Taylor, Shaun Anthony or Joanne Harbinson.