Study Design


The University of Waterloo is unique in many environmental aspects the most prominent being Laurel Creek.. The creek provides a habitat for many organisms , most noticeable being the water fowl (Ducks and Canadian Geese). Laurel Creek has become an object of interest for many students and concerned citizens. As a group of concerned students we feel that it is necessary to find out whether the water quality of Laurel Creek is in jeopardy. The creek provides a habitat to many organisms and it is an important part of a larger ecosystem. Therefore the quality of the water present is crucial for maintaining sustainability on campus. According to our definition of sustainability preservation of natural resources is important. Therefore the preservation of Laurel Creek as a natural resource is important. Also, with regards to our definition of sustainability the improvement of Laurel Creek as a possible degraded system is equally important. Since the creek is part of a larger watershed the quality of the water at every point is important. Also the quality of water acts as a reflection of what is going on around the water system, after all the creek can not pollute itself. Since a large portion of the creek runs through the University of Waterloo we feel that we should be a positive role model for others to follow. With all the resources and the equipment available at the university there is no excuse for further degradation to occur., if we cause further deterioration to the creek then will we not be setting a bad example of an educational institution. If we can not keep our portion of Laurel Creek clean then we can not expect other people to keep their portions of the creek clean, we must present a positive image to the public.

Laurel Creek is approximately km long. The headwaters are located at with the creek draining into the Grand River. . Laurel Creeks most prominent use is as a home for many aquatic organisms.

Since there are different standards of water quality, for different uses, we must determine what the water system is used for. For information on specific standards click on the following items drinking, recreation, aesthetics, aquatic organisms survival. However we must remember that standards have been set for general systems only without regard to specific situations, therefor we should use these standards with caution.

Depending on what the water is to be used for generally good water quality has a low temperature, high dissolved oxygen, low biological oxygen demand (BOD), supports a diverse number of organisms, has small amounts of biological effluent.

Four types of pollution will be analyzed...

- Organic pollution

- Inorganic pollution

- pH

- Thermal pollution

The sampling was conducted over a two week period and therefore provides only a snapshot of the creeks condition. This kind of information is not effective for making long term conclusions about the quality of the water, however we can determine some of the long term effects that man has had on the creek by analyzing the benthic community that lives in the creek year round. Due to the nature of the benthic community there ability to move from one area to another is limited, for example invertebrates do not swim and therefore depend on the currents within a water system to move from one area to another. Unlike the human population if the water quality is poor the species can not just turn their backs and walk away, they either adapt to the system or they die. Invertebrates can therefore be used as indicators of water quality and are essential to this study.

Other indicators of water quality exist but can not be used as effectively in our study. These tests if performed over a long period of time can analyze the presence of pollutants within the water system. These tests, though not statistically significant, are important to our study. Also the snapshot that we take of the creek can act as a stimulus for further analysis of the creek.

The following tests were performed over a two week period at 12 sites along Laurel Creek from the head water to the discharge into the Grand River........

- turbidity

- chloride

- conductivity

- colliform testing (fecal and other)

- suspended sediment

- nitrate

- phosphate

- water temperature

- biological oxygen demand (5 day)

- invertebrates (benthic community)

For further explanation of what testing methods were used see methodology We felt that all to often people only concentrate on anthropogenic uses of ecological systems as opposed to thinking about the well being of the species that depend on the water system for life. We did a system study to try and determine what actors are involved in the water quality issue as it is not always obvious as to who or what may be causing an effect on the water system.

System Study

  1. General population- to have clean water for drinking, recreation and aesthetics
  2. Construction companies- to make the most profit from each endeavor
  3. Industrialists- to make a profit
  4. Grand River Conservation Authority- improve quality of entire watershed
  5. U of W Plant Ops- improve water quality on campus through sustainable practices
  6. Farmers- to remove water for crops and livestock to get the best return for money spent
  7. Water quality group- promote awareness of ill practices
  8. Activists groups- promote awareness

Although not all of these different actors seem to directly tie into the creek, they still have an effect on the overall quality of the water and this an important fact to realize when studying any system. For example, a construction company not following proper erosion control methods may discharge a large amount of sediments into the creek causing many adverse effects.

Glossary


sustainable - Sustainability involves not only the preservation of natural economic resources but also the improvement of systems that have been degraded. A balance should be maintained so that one resource is not compromised for another.
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drinking - Any water intended for human consumption should not contain any disease-causing organisms or hazardous concentration of toxic chemicals or radioactive substances (Ontario Ministry of the Environment, 1983.) The recommended limits for the tests conducted are:

Turbidity -1 NTU

Chloride - 250 mg/l

Conductivity - na

Colliform - zero mg/l fecal colliforms

Suspended sediments - na

Nitrates - <10mg/l

Phosphates - 0.2mg/l

Water temperature - 15 degrees Celsius

Biological Oxygen Demand - <4mg/l
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recreation -

Turbidity - 5-50 NTU

Chloride - na

Conductivity - na

Colliform - <100 mg/l fecal colliforms

Suspended sediments - na

Nitrates - 20mg/l

Phosphates - <.10 mg/l

Water temperature - No less Than 15 Degrees Celsius no Greater than 25 Degrees Celsius

Biological Oxygen Demand - na
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aesthetics - Water systems should be free from offensive odours and colours and should prove to be pleasing to the user.
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survival - This information is not available at this time.
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temperature- If temperature is to warm, organisms intolerant of warm conditions may disappear while other species, rare in unheated water, may thrive so that the structure of the community changes.
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oxygen-It is important to test the levels of oxygen in a water system because the life forms that live in the water depend on the oxygen to live much like humans depend on oxygen in the air to breath. Low oxygen levels can be an indicator of organic and inorganic pollution. Also the concentration of dissolved oxygen is affected by variations in temperature, photosynthetic activity and river discharge.
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(BOD)-The biological oxygen demand (BOD) of a water is the amount of oxygen required to oxidize the organic matter by aerobic decomposition to a stable inorganic form.
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effluent- Biological effluent is made up of human sewage, farm runoff and industrial effluent ( food production plants ). Biological effluent is made up of waste products that are biological in nature. Biological effluents are major vectors of disease dispersal because many pathogens are carried in the waste of biological beings.
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suspended solids- Suspended sediments are particles in the water such as silt. If there are high amounts of suspended solids in the water then it becomes to turbid. Turbidity causes problems in that when trying to use the water for drinking the water must be filtered ,also recreational activities in turbid water are discouraged for safety reasons. ( drowning victim may not be spotted in the water due to lack of water clarity)
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Organic- Organic pollution originates from domestic sewage (raw or treated), urban runoff, industrial effluent and farm wastes. Organic pollution causes problems because the sewage contains pathogens that may be hazardous to populations of different species including humans. For example..... Bacteria Salmonella typhi typhoid fever Vibrio cholerae cholera Viruses Enteroviruses meningitis, infectious hepatitis Rotaavirus diarrhoea, entritis Protozoa Entamoeba histolytica diarrhoea *Crytosporidium sp diarrhoea, stomach cramps Helminths Taenia saginata tape worm * Cryptosporidium was found in Kitchener - Waterloo's drinking water in the summer of 1993.
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Inorganic- Inorganic pollution generally enters water systems through runoff from farmers fields and effluents from industrial plants (pulp and paper mills). There are two main inorganic pollutants they are phosphorous and nitrogen. Inorganic pollutants leads to the Eutrophication of water systems. Eutrophication is the enrichment of waters by inorganic plant nutrients.
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pH- pH is a measure of the balance between acidity and alkalinity it is measured exponentially on a scale between 0-14. Most lakes have a pH between 6-9. A water system with a pH below 5 often implies biological damage, below 4 always means damage has occurred. pH is important also as it modifies solubility and toxicity of many compounds.
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Thermal- Thermal pollution is caused by the increase in water temperature from an exterior source, for example industrial plants often dump heated water back into a stream after they have used it. If temperature is to warm, intolerant species die. The overall number of species may increase in warm water, however, the biodiversity is diminished. Invertebrates can be good indicators of seasonal water temperatures. Also - increased water temperatures may render organisms more vulnerable to the effects of toxic pollutants present in the water.
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turbidity- Turbidity measures the amount of suspendid solids (dirt, algae, leaves, etc.) in the water. Turbidity is an important factor if water is to be used for recreational purposes. If water is too turbid then it makes recreational activities unsafe.
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chloride-Chloride enters water system through rod runoff and mining. The effects on steam systems are very detrimental. Chloride is salt and freshwater species can not survive in high salt environments. (Osmosis)
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conductivity- Conductivity test for the amount of dissolved inorganic ions in water. If conductivity is high then water quality inspectors can test for different inorganic materials such as heavy metals, phosphorus, nitrogen and silicates.
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colliform- Fecal contaminants can introduce a variety of pathogens into waterways, including bacteria, viruses, protozoa and parasitic worms. Waterborne disease remains a major hazard in many parts of the world. It is important to monitor water systems for fecal colliform in order to prevent the spread of disease.
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suspended sediments- Suspended sediments are particles in the water such as silt. If there are high amounts of suspended solids in the water then it becomes to turbid. Turbidity causes problems in that when trying to use the water for drinking the water must be filtered ,also recreational activities in turbid water are discouraged for safety reasons. ( drowning victim may not be spotted in the water due to lack of water clarity )
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nitrate- Nitrogen enters water systems through farm runoff and sewage treatment plants. Nitrogen loading can lead to increase growth of blue green algae’s. Also since nitrogen causes an increase in plant growth it leads to eutrophication. The general effects of eutrophication are.... - Species diversity decreases and the dominant biota change - Plant and animal biomass increases - Turbidity increases - Rate of sedimentation increases - Anoxic (low oxygen ) conditions may develop The problems associated with the general effects are.... - Treatment of potable water may be difficult and the supply may have an unacceptable taste or odour - The water may be injurious to health - Increased vegetation may impede water flow and navigation - Commercially important species may disappear
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phosphate- Phosphorous is a form of inorganic pollution, it can enter water systems by farm runoff ( fertilizers ) , sewage treatment plants and mines. An increase in phosphorus will result in a drastic increase in plant growth. The mass increase in plant production can lead to Eutrophication of the water system. Eutrophication has been know to virtually choke the life out of a water system.
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water temperature-If temperature is to warm, organisms intolerant of warm conditions may disappear while other species, rare in unheated water, may thrive so that the structure of the community changes. Therefore we can use invertebrates as a measure of long term indicators of water temperatures.
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biological- Biological Oxygen Demand measures the amount of oxygen in the water after a five day period in a lightless condition. This test measures the amount of oxygen that the system is using.
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invertebrates Invertebrates are vital to our study because they are the only long term indicators of water quality that we can collect in a short period of time. Also invertebrates are relatively easy to collect and identify. Another important factor with invertebrates is they have been well studied with regards to water quality. Biotic indexes take account of the sensitivity or tolerance of individual species or groups to pollution and gives them a sensitivity number. We are taking a qualitative approach with regards to invertebrates. A qualitative biotic index deals specifically with presence or absence of certain species as opposed to a quantitative approach which counts the number of different species.
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methodology We are still gathering this information. It will be contained within our final report, please stay posted.
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benthic Benthic community consist of all the bottom feeding organisms within a water system.
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© Lisa Straus, Matt Graham, Deborah Reid, and Cassandra Daly, July 6, 1995.