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Primary Station Information

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What is Primary Stations Monitoring Program?

The original primary station monitoring sites were a part of a provincial network of 400 water quality monitoring sites established in the early 1970’s. At that time, sites were categorized into three clusters to assess trends, compliance and primaries. The “trend” group monitored changes over time for key water quality parameters (such as nutrients) in lower order streams.  The “compliance” group assessed upstream to downstream changes in water quality associated with point sources discharges, such as treated effluent discharges. The compliance sites are currently used by municipalities and industries for their permitting requirements. The ‘primary’ group focused on monitoring water quality variables in major transboundary waters (Alberta-Saskatchewan-Manitoba)

Sites, locations and station numbers changed over the years. Please contact WSA (306-787-5897) for more information on these changes. The current monitoring of 24 Primary Stations continues the initial ‘primary’ group of stations.  There have been some changes in sites sampled over the years, including recent additions (e.g. the Clearwater River).  Some Primary sites are located to gain a better understand of contributions from point source effluent discharges or to assess changes resulting from construction of reservoirs. Prior to October 2012, the Environmental Protection and Audit Division of the Saskatchewan Ministry of Environment was responsible for Primary Station related activities. A large portion of this Division, including responsibilities for surface water quality, was transferred in October 2012 to the newly-formed WSA.

Why do we monitor surface water quality at 24 Primary Stations?

WSA monitors surface water quality of Primary Stations to assess the state of water quality in provincial rivers and whether there have been long-term changes to water quality.  Data from the Primary Program, along with other provincial surface water quality data, are used to report on the state of water quality in Saskatchewan’s State of Environment and State of Forestry reporting (  Data from Primary Stations monitoring program is also provided to the federal government and included in its annual national assessment of environmental indicators under the ‘Canadian Environmental Sustainability Indicators’ (CESI) program (  Data from each province are used to calculate index values using the Canadian Water Quality Index ( The Primary Stations also assist in understanding changes in water quality along inter-provincial river systems and support the Master Agreement on Apportionment that focuses on interprovincial water sharing among Alberta, Saskatchewan, and Manitoba.  This agreement is administered by the Prairie Provinces Water Board (PPWB).  Further information about the PPWB can be found at

What do we monitor at 24 Primary Stations?

Primary stations are monitored at a quarterly frequency (each season).  Field measurements collected at each site includes temperature and dissolved oxygen.  Samples are also collected for laboratory analysis of nutrients, salts (major ions), trace metals, bacteria, and pesticides. The data reported on this website include selected variables from a suite of parameters monitored as part of the Primary Stations Monitoring Program.