Water quality

Soon after moving to Victoria, I started volunteering with Friends of Bowker Creek. In fact, the first week after the 2-week COVID quarantine that was mandatory at the time, my partner and I joined one of their habitat restoration work parties. It’s fair to say that I caught the bug.

The group’s vision is to restore this very culverted creek and its very paved urban/suburban watershed to a condition that can support salmon and trout again, as it apparently has done in living memory, albeit not for some decades. We’re under no illusions about being able to fully undo 150 years of careless development, and are well aware that the state of the creek before that was not the “perfect Eden” that settlers thought they were seeing, but rather carefully managed by the lək̓ʷəŋən & W̱SÁNEĆ people to serve their needs. But we take inspiration from that management, and in that find hope that it can support many people and fish at the same time.

An important part of this is the quality of the water itself, which FoBC sends volunteers out to measure a couple of times a month. We need this data to track our own progress, to advocate for municipal water management changes, and to convince the Federal Department of Fisheries & Oceans to provide the allowance of chum salmon eggs which we’ve started placing in the stream. After about a year, the person who had been leading that effort had to step down, and I took over coordinating it. I have some big ideas about ways to integrate the manually collected data with a couple of continuous loggers we also maintain, and the quite comprehensive water quality data that our regional government publishes. But my first priority was to update our system from using paper data sheets and entering them into a database that was hard to access.

Water Rangers came to the rescue on both counts. We now enter data on our phones at the creek, so there are no more piles of forms on my desk waiting to be transcribed. And they host a site where anyone can see our data and learn about the state of the creek for themselves.

A screenshot of the data for one monitoring site, with charts showing the air temperature, water temperature, and dissolved oxygen since August 2020.

Of course it means nothing if it doesn’t spur change, and the thing that I’m proudest of is that we have convinced one of the municipalities this creek flows through to make some changes in how their own Public Works depot handles wastewater. More of next winter’s chum eggs will manage to hatch because of that. It’s just one baby step, but each brings us a little closer to seeing salmon return to spawn here again.