Water Quality Monitoring

The City of Edmonton, along with partners, conducts an annual Environmental Monitoring Program which includes monitoring of the North Saskatchewan River and of discharges into the River.  The water quality monitoring map illustrates the many sampling locations. Alberta Environment and Parks also operates a long term network of monitoring locations on the North Saskatchewan River.

Bacteria, nutrients, physical and chemical properties, metals and pesticides are monitored.

Monitoring of fish, invertebrates, and vegetation in the river has also been conducted.

Muddy Appearance of the River

The natural state of the river changes dramatically throughout the year. In the spring, the river appears muddy due to naturally occurring sediments which are washed into the river by increased flow. In late summer and fall, the river flow slows down and the water clears up.

River Water Quality Investigations and Impacts

Alberta Environment and Parks, along with the City of Edmonton and other partners, has conducted a number of investigations on the North Saskatchewan River. This work has shown that the water quality of the North Saskatchewan River downstream of Edmonton has improved considerably since the 1950s.

The City of Edmonton and the surrounding municipalities affect the river through discharges from:

Since the 1950s, municipal sources have contributed significantly fewer nutrients and Biochemical Oxygen Demand (BOD) to the river. BOD is a measure of the oxygen required by micro-organisms and chemical oxidation processes to decompose organic matter in water. High levels of BOD and nutrients can upset the natural balance of the river ecosystem. The upset can cause excessive growth of aquatic vegetation, which is undesirable because it leads to large swings in dissolved oxygen. This in turn affects fish and other organisms as too little oxygen in the river can kill them.

The combined sewer system in Edmonton overflows during snow melt or precipitation and is the largest contributor of bacteria to the river.  Studies have found increased bacteria levels in the river during these times. This increase could cause concern for people in direct contact with the river during or immediately following snow melt or precipitation

Watershed Contaminant Reduction

The Edmonton Watershed Contaminant Reduction Index was developed to support the City’s Environmental strategic plan, The Way We Green. The index measures one of the plan’s corporate outcomes: Edmonton strives to be a leader in environmental advocacy, preservation and conservation.

This index also reflects the City’s progress on other programs such as the Combined Sewer Overflow Control Strategy and the Total Loadings Plan, which are requirements of the Approval to Operate, issued by Alberta Environment and Protected Areas.

River for Life

Our River for Life website has information on how to keep the river healthy, so we can all continue to enjoy the beautiful scenery our river has to offer through the City’s outdoor programs and trails.

Water Quality and Fish

Alberta Health advises that you should not eat fish from the North Saskatchewan River more than once a week, and pregnant women should not consume the fish at all.

Most mercury accumulation in Alberta fish comes from natural sources.