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
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 (https://www.canada.ca/en/environment-climate-change/services/environmental-indicators/water-quality-canadian-rivers.html).
Data from each province are used to calculate index values using the
Canadian Water Quality Index (https://www.ccme.ca/files/Resources/water/water_quality/WQI%20Manual%20EN.pdf).
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
What do we monitor at 24 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.