- Created: Thursday, 09 June 2016 19:18
U of C Professor Champions Elbow River Protection
by C. Lacombe
The many people that drink Elbow River water may be making important decisions by default and Professor Dr. Cathryn Ryan would prefer to see that change to informed decision making.
Ryan and her students have studied the Elbow River, its water and its watershed for years. Students tested well water at Bragg Creek kitchen taps, checked Elbow River invertebrates, tested river water quality and studied hydro geology upstream of the Glenmore Reservoir.
According to Ryan, Al Sosiak, a recently retired limnolgist Alberta Environment, said for many years that the Elbow is the only river in the world that he's aware of whose major end use is drinking water.
The Elbow River is small, less than one tenth the size of the Bow River, but supplies 40 – 45% of Calgary's drinking water. Sosiak first showed water quality degradation in the Elbow River close to Calgary in 1999. Sosiak and Dixon (from The City of Calgary) checked water quality again in 2005 and Ryan studied it with her students in 2016 to find that the degradation continues – mainly in the reaches closest to the Glenmore reservoir.
Ryan says she believes that water quality degradation is related to development on the river-connected alluvial aquifer, a thin ribbon of land next to the river and not even continuous on both sides. She points out that a good portion of the Elbow River headwaters are in Kananaskis Country. The eastern slopes experience some stress from forestry and recreation, but it is the land in and just west of Calgary where urban development has a significant effect.