Abstract: Changing land cover and climate regimes modify water quantity and quality in natural stream systems. In regions undergoing rapid change, it is difficult to effectively monitor and quantify these impacts at local to regional scales. In Vancouver, British Columbia, one of the most rapidly urbanizing areas in Canada, 750 measurements were taken from a total of 81 unique sampling sites representing 49 streams located in urban, forest, and agricultural-dominant watersheds at a frequency of up to 12 times per year between 2013 and 2016. Dissolved nitrate (NO3-N) and phosphate (PO4-P) concentrations, turbidity, water temperature, pH and conductivity were measured by citizen scientists in addition to observations of hydrology, vegetation, land use, and visible stream impacts. Land cover was mapped at a 15-m resolution using Landsat 8 OLI imagery and used to determine dominant land cover for each watershed in which a sample was recorded. Regional, seasonal, and catchment-type trends in measurements were determined using statistical analyses. The relationships of nutrients to land cover varied seasonally and on a catchment-type basis. Nitrate showed seasonal highs in winter and lows in summer, though phosphate had less seasonal variation. Overall, nitrate concentrations were positively associated to agriculture and deciduous forest and negatively associated with coniferous forest. In contrast, phosphate concentrations were positively associated with agricultural, deciduous forest, and disturbed land cover and negatively associated with urban land cover. Both urban and agricultural land cover were significantly associated with an increase in water conductivity. Increased forest land cover was associated with better water quality, including lower turbidity, conductivity, and water temperature. This study showed the importance of high resolution sampling in understanding seasonal and spatial dynamics of stream water quality, made possible with the large number of measurements taken with the help of trained volunteers. The results underscore the value of citizen science in freshwater research.

Source: High resolution stream water quality assessment in the Vancouver, British Columbia region: a citizen science study