Peek At The Creek

Wascana Creek. What does one often think about when they think of our Creek? ... It’s nice to look at,... not to smell. The ducks sure seem to like it... The creek is like a true love, there many things to enjoy about it, many positive things, but there are also always going to be character flaws... For the average person the Creek is a place to relax, to exercise, to walk your dog and to socialize. It has been part of Regina since our city was created.  For a biologist it is an amazing, small ecosystem in the middle of our city. Our question is, what human impacts might be deterring its health? How healthy is it? Have we made it unhealthy?  We are trying to answer these questions for the public.  So that you as a citizen can understand how the great natural wonder that is our creek is doing and how you can help it

Fecal Coliform
Phosphate
PH wide range
Dissolved Oxygen (PPM)
Nitrate
Turbidty(JTU)
Test 1
postive
2
7
4
1
100
Test 2
postive
2
7
4
1
100
Test 3
postive
1
7
3
0
80
Average
postive
1.667
7
3.667
.667
93.333

We took these tests over a period of a couple weeks . The purose for this was to develope a base line (average of the levels for the 6 tests). And to look for changes in the levels of these things in the creek, if we had only done the testing over a couple of days we more than likely wouldn't have seen the changes that we did because it takes the creek some time to change.

Turbidity- Turbidity in water is caused my particles such as clay, silt, and microorganisms.  A water may be dark in color, but not turbid, so it should be tested.  Testing for turbidity can be done by placing water in an appropriately sized tube, and looking through the water at discs of color, the discs are in an order from dark to light.  If the person testing can see the lighter ones the turbidity is good, because less turbidity means less stuff suspended in the water.  If the testing person can only see the dark discs on the paper, the turbidity is bad, and there is lots of stuff floating around in the water. The  organic particles that form turbidity may harbor high concentrations of bacteria, viruses, and protozoans. Thus, turbid conditions may increase the possibility for waterborne disease. Turbidity is measured in JTU’s or “Jackson Turbidity Units”, the measure is in numbers from 10 to 100. Higher levels of turbidity are harder on the environment because the creatures that live in this ecosystem take in more of the silts, etc. that are floating in the water.

Dissolved Oxygen- Dissolved oxygen analysis measures the amount of oxygen gas that is  dissolved in a sample of water. Oxygen gets into water by diffusion from the surrounding air, by aeration (rapid movement), and as a waste product of photosynthesis. Creatures like fish need specific amounts of Dissolved Oxygen to live and function in daily life.  It is measured in PPM, or parts per million. The more dissolved oxygen there is the easier it is for things like fish (that use this oxygen to breath)


Nitrates- Nitrates are derived from nitrogen -- an element which occurs naturally in many different forms in the environment. In Saskatchewan the main contribution to nitrogen in the water systems is the nitrogen that farmers apply to their fields every year, as fertilizer.  When nitrogen enters the soil, it is converted to nitrates by microorganisms. Plants use some of these nitrates; any excess is carried down through the soil into the groundwater in a process known as "leaching."  This is how nitrogen has gotten into the creek. Lower levels of nitrates are better because the types of nitrates that these test pick up are chemicaly made, for farming. Once they seep into the creek they make the plants grow more than normal, taking more resources away from the environment, which is not good.

Phosphates-Phosphates are chemical compounds containing phosphorus. Phosphorus is a non-metallic element which is necessary for life and is found in rock as inorganic phosphates. As water runs over and through rocks it carries off small amounts of minerals such as calcium, magnesium, and phosphates. Inorganic phosphates are a plant nutrient and are taken in by plants with water and incorporated into organic phosphate compounds. Animals obtain their essential phosphorus from phosphates in water and plant material. Natural waters have a phosphorus concentration of approximately 0.02 parts per million (ppm) which is a limiting factor for plant growth. On the other hand, large concentrations of this nutrient can accelerate plant growth.  This again is why there is phosphates in the creek, because they are also part of fertilizers. They are also parts of some house hold chemicals. The lower the level of phosphates in the creek the better.

PH- PH is a measure of the acids and bases that are in a substance. Throughout the world there are things like orange juice, these things are acidic.  They usually taste sour and in high amounts are hard on plants.  There are also things that are basic, such as bleach. Bases taste oily. Bases can also be quite hard on plants.  Every liquid in the world is either basic, acidic or neutral (neither basic or acidic).  These things are measured on a scale, 1 being really acidic and 14 being really basic, a neutral liquid is 7. The PH of the water effects the life in the creek. If the waters to basic nothing can live, also if the water is to acidic nothing can live. Lower levels of these things can make plants and animals have much more troble growing. A neutral PH is what is disired

Fecal Coliform- Total coliform bacteria are a collection of relatively harmless microorganisms that live in large numbers in the intestines of man and warm- and cold-blooded animals. The presence of fecal coliform bacteria in aquatic environments indicates that the water has been contaminated with the fecal material of man or other animals. At the time this occurred, the source water may have been contaminated by pathogens or disease producing bacteria or viruses which can also exist in fecal material. Some waterborne pathogenic diseases include typhoid fever, viral and bacterial gastroenteritis and hepatitis A.  This sewage could have seeped into the creek from many places such as waste water and farming run off. Because fecal coliform comes from wastes, positive tests are not disired.

Conclusion- We conclude that the creek in general is fairly clean.  Chemically at least.  This is shown by the low levels of nitrates and phosphates.  They affect the way that the plants live in the creek.  They can increase the growth of the plants, taking un-needed resources from the environment.  Because they are the main chemicals that seep into any body of water we can conclude that the creek is chemically clean. Along with the phosphates and nitrates PH is important to the chemical cleanliness of the creek, because an un-balanced PH can effect the growth of plants, and in extreme cases can harm the animal life. Our creek has a balanced PH, because it is neither basic, nor acidic we can make the presumption that the creek is chemically fine, with no added chemicals from human waste waters, or runoff.  The creek can also be considered un-clean in some respects. Fecal Coleform is a bacterium that comes from animal and human wastes. This bacterium tells us that there is a presence of wastes in the creek, making it unclean by general standards, no one would like having human or animal wastes in the creek. In addition to the Coleform, the turbidity is an important showing of the lack of cleanliness in the creek. The turbidity of our creek is quite high, making it unusable for almost any human activity.  The turbidity is the reason the creek can look so dirty after a couple of weeks without a large rainfall, because the rain would wash away the added sediment.  Lastly some might consider the creek dirty because of the low levels of dissolved oxygen.  Dissolved oxygen is a necessary ingredient to having bigger creatures like fish growing in the creek.  This is the reason that fish have trobles growing in the creek.  Fish control the level of insects in any body of water.  Our creek has a lack of them, because of this most will probably think that our creek is dirty because it is an easy place for things like mosquitoes to grow.  We can not control the levels of Dissolved Oxygen and turbidity in the creek, and because they are the way it was before humans arrived here we should accept that there is a lack of fish, and that the creek has more sediment than most, because we really haven't done anything to change that from the way it was years before we came.  In closing the creek is chemically fine, but there is some human or animal waste in it.  Because of these two main things the creek is slightly dirty, but not really that bad. The turbidity and Dissolved oxyen make the creek a sort of dirty environment also, but this is just the way the creek was. We haven't added alot of chemicals to hinder the life of the creek. Our creek is clean enough to uphold the life that it suports, which is what really matters.

For more information on water quality please visit these sites.

Water Quality Assocciation

Water Quality Information Center