Prairie pothole drainage and water quality
Brunet, Nathalie Nicole
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Pothole wetlands are ubiquitous throughout the Prairie Pothole Region and since 1900, 40-70% of potholes in the region have been drained to increase agricultural production. This thesis describes factors influencing spatial and temporal variations in wetland water quality and characteristics of drainage water. Research was conducted at Smith Creek watershed, southeastern Saskatchewan, where there has been controversy over recent renewed efforts to drain wetlands. Following snowmelt in 2009, 67 wetlands were sampled to determine whether spatial variations in wetland water quality were attributable to land cover, permanence classes, and surface drainage characteristics. Wetlands with cropped uplands had greater TP and K than wetlands with wooded and grassed uplands; TP, TDN, and DOC were higher in seasonally than permanently ponded wetlands; and salts were lower in wetlands with wooded uplands compared to wetlands with cropped and grassed uplands. Measurements of water quality of one permanently ponded wetland over a 20 week period in 2008 showed that the wetland acted as a solute trap. Variations in salts and DOC were influenced by hydrological processes such as runoff, evaporation, and shallow groundwater seepage, whereas variations in nitrogen, phosphorus, and bacteria were influenced by biotic, sorption, and hydrological processes. The experimental drainage of this wetland in November 2009 demonstrated that its water quality was an important control of drainage water quality. Further, the wetland ditch acted as a simple conduit, i.e., little solutes loss or gain occurred along it. In spring 2009, water quality along seven ditches and five natural connections that form between wetlands (termed spills) was compared. Concentrations of most solutes were similar, except TDN, DOC, HCO3-, K+, and Ca2+ that were higher in ditches than spills. Minimal changes in water quality along ditches and spills occurred, likely due to the low temperatures occurring in spring that restrict biotic processing and sorption. Notably, because ditches connect wetlands to streams, as opposed to spills that connect adjacent wetlands, ditches have a greater potential to contribute to downstream solute loading. Wetland drainage efficiency and wetland water quality were deemed the factors critical to determining solute exports via ditches. Results of wetland water quality and drainage characteristics can be useful to future modeling exercises and could be used to inform wetland drainage practices and policies.
DegreeMaster of Science (M.Sc.)
SupervisorWestbrook, Cherie J.
Committeede Boer, Dirk; Hudson, Jeff; van der Kamp, Garth; Bedard-Haughn, Angela; Pomeroy, John
Copyright DateApril 2011