Integrated Watershed Research in the Nechako River Basin (Phase 2)

NEEF Funding: $499,950

Total Project Budget: $999,950

Start Date: January 2018

End Date: December 2022


The Integrated Watershed Research Group (IWRG) of UNBC was initiated in response to the growing recognition of the environmental, socio-economic and health implications of watershed dynamics. Informed by the insights and outcomes from Phase 1 research, this 5-year project will pursue research in three interrelated themes: Water security and climate change; Fine-grained sediment sources and dynamics; and Tools for integration in watershed management and governance. Through this phase of research, the IWRG aims to fill gaps in knowledge about the Nechako River Basin (NRB), and to contribute to the integration of information, knowledge and perspectives to better understand and respond to interrelated issues at the watershed scale. The IWRG will achieve this through three interrelated themes, each with their respective goals and objectives.

Theme 1: Water security and climate change
The overarching goal of this research theme is to create a comprehensive research framework using hydrological modeling supplemented by observations to identify the relative impacts of climate change and flow regulation on water availability, flow timing and water temperatures in NRB rivers and streams. This is to improve the scientific basis for managing the NRB’s ecosystems and enhance understanding of the water supply by identifying challenges in the resiliency of existing water infrastructure and management systems under the increasing risks of future water shortages and floods.

Theme 2: Fine-grained sediment sources and dynamics
The overarching goal of Theme 2 is to develop a framework for the use of the sediment fingerprinting technique, supplemented by other approaches such as land use and river channel mapping and sediment quality assessment, to identify the role of key watersheds dominated by specific land uses (i.e. agriculture and forestry) and disturbances (e.g. wildfires) in supplying fine-grained sediment to the Nechako main stem. This information will provide the scientific basis for improved understanding of sediment sources and transfers, thereby helping to protect sensitive aquatic habitats and ecosystems from sediment and its associated contaminants.

Theme 3: Tools for integration in watershed management and governance
The overarching goal of Theme 3 is to answer the guiding question: How can integrative tools and processes be optimized to increase understanding of the cumulative impacts of environment, community and health changes within the NRB, and inform and support intersectoral action and watershed governance? This question is informed by the collaborative and technical successes of the web-portal development in Phase 1, and specific interests from established and proposed portal user groups.

Proponent: University of Northern British Columbia