Importance of Water and Watersheds
Because the City of Prince George relies on groundwater for its water supply, protecting the local river valleys is vital. This is done at the "watershed-scale" level through a planning approach where human activity is balanced with preserving natural resources.
Every creek and drainage ditch in the city – including the storm sewer system – is part of the Nechako and Fraser River watershed. Prince George is also home to several lakes, creeks, and urban streams that provide spawning, rearing, and winter habitat for fish and other wildlife species. All of these are linked to groundwater resources that provide the city with clean and drinkable water.
Stormwater quality is greatly affected by what it picks up off the ground as it runs down roads and into the storm sewer. Water entering the sewer is not treated and discharges into natural watercourses where fish and other wildlife reside. Sediment and mud, salts, pesticides, fertilisers, grease, oil from vehicles, and other contaminants are picked up by stormwater runoff and eventually end up in fish habitat. Whatever goes down the catch basin and into the storm drain flows directly into creeks and the watershed.
- Wash vehicles at a commercial car wash where waste water is treated.
- Wash on grass or gravel so dirt or sediment can be filtered before entering the drain. Be sure to use biodegradable soap.
RIDING AND WASHING DIRT BIKES OR QUADS
- When riding, keep away from creeks and catch basins.
- Clean dirt bikes and quads at commercial car washes or wash on a lawn.
DISPOSE OF TRASH PROPERLY
- Make sure to properly dispose of all trash. Wildlife can ingest or become smothered by litter.
PREVENT FUEL LEAKS
- Check vehicles, lawnmowers, snowblowers and other gas-operated machinery constantly for leaks and repair problems immediately.
- Recycle old oil, gasoline, and other chemicals at an approved facility.
- Avoid spillage when filling up at a gas station.
PREVENT SOIL EROSION
- Avoid or minimise clearing trees, grading slopes, or excavating and stockpiling materials.
- Install erosion and sediment control measures on construction sites.
Other Tips to Protect Streams
Incorporate simple solutions into day-to-day activities to help protect stormwater quality:
- Do not spray clean driveways to remove salts and dirt, as the water will end up flowing into the storm drain.
- Use as little pavement as possible. Gravel, brick, or interlocking pavers allow rain to soak back into the ground rather than run off over solid concrete or asphalt.
- Direct rain gutters into rain barrels or onto the lawn.
- Dispose of household hazardous wastes such as paints, motor oils, antifreeze, and batteries at recycling collection depots.
- Collect and properly dispose of pet wastes.
- Reduce fertiliser and pesticide use.
Water conservation planning's goal is to achieve efficient water use in the City of Prince George. While water conservation is often thought of as being restrictive and residents may associate it with personal inconvenience and rationing, it's not just about using less water. Conservation also involves carefully managing water resources, and using water more efficiently.
The Water Cycle and Water Systems
The water cycle continuously re-circulates and 'recycles' water between the Earth's surface and the atmosphere. Because of this and the fact water is a finite resource, it is crucial to preserve water quality as it transfers throughout the environment.
The City of Prince George monitors and protects its urban water systems – drinking water, waste water, and stormwater – through quality sampling, waste discharge permits, development permit areas, and bylaws.
Prince George relies on groundwater for its water supply. Over 80 per cent of the city's water wells tap into aquifers that are refilled by the Nechako River. These aquifers provide nearly 18 billion litres of water each year to six municipal wells. Treated, safe-to-drink water is pumped to and stored in 14 service reservoirs throughout the city where it eventually makes its way to homes either directly from the reservoirs or through water supply well pumps.
Groundwater sources are vulnerable to tainting. One of the ways to fight against contamination is by decreasing water usage. Reducing water demand slows the movement of pollutants into and through the aquifers, which makes water that does flow through easier to treat.
The City of Prince George regulates development within groundwater capture zones to reduce the risk of contamination. Developing inside a Groundwater Protection Development Permit Area may require a Groundwater Protection Development Permit.
Wastewater Source Control Program
Wastewater Source Control Program plays an important role in protecting the local environment. Some of the its aims include:
- Protecting the public from sewer materials that are toxic, flammable, or explosive.
- Protecting sewer infrastructure from corrosive substances like acids or materials like grease and sand or rocks that can clog the sewer system and lead to backups.
- Protecting wastewater treatment from substances or conditions that might disturb the treatment process.
- Protecting the environment from substances that cannot be removed through treatment.
- Improving the quality of solid waste to make it easier to transform into soil improvement materials.
City staff work with local businesses and residents to restrict what can be discharged into the city sewer system. This is done through sewer bylaws, waste discharge permits, inspections, audit sampling, and public education.
Waste Discharge Permits
Waste Discharge Permits are issued under the City's Sanitary Sewer Bylaw to operations that discharge – or plan to discharge – high loads of wastewater containing chemical contaminants into the sanitary sewer. Permit holders are required to follow permit conditions, sample and test their waste, record flows, and report regularly to the Source Control Program for inspections and audits to ensure permit compliance.
Stormwater and Drainage
Rainfall, snowmelt, and stormwater runoff from road, parking lots, and industrial areas enter the storm sewer system and eventually flow into streams and watercourses. Any water than enters a catch basin or drainage ditch is not treated and may contain harmful contaminants like sediment, oil, grease, salt, metals, and hydrocarbons. The City restricts contaminant discharge to the storm sewer system through the
City of Prince George Storm Sewer System Bylaw No. 2656, 1974.
Riparian habitats are the immediate lands – such as river banks – surrounding lakes, ponds, creeks, and rivers where moist soils and water-loving plant species protect the stream environment. In addition to serving as habitat for wildlife, riparian areas also play a role in the City's water management strategy through vital ecosystem support by:
- Providing stream bank stability.
- Filtering and purifying water.
- Soaking up and storing water during heavy rain or snowfall.
- Breaking down contaminants.
Ways to Protect Riparian Areas
The City's goals to enhance and protect its watercourses include plans designed to:
- Preserve remaining riparian areas along city creeks and to encourage restoration of riparian areas on both public and private lands.
- Improve water quality in creek systems and reduce instances of pollution from single and multiple sources.
- Support groups and events like BC River's Day, REAPS, and the Nechako Watershed Roundtable to help educate the public on local water-related issues.
Residents who have a riparian area in their yard can do their part to protect the surrounding stream by:
- Leaving all trees and shrubs in place.
- Not piling compost, lawn clippings, or debris in the area.
- Not using fertilisers.
- Not building sheds or similar structures in the riparian area without prior approval from the City of Prince George.
Riparian Protection Development Permits
Riparian areas are protected by the City of Prince George through Riparian Protection Development Permits to ensure these habitats are properly managed in development projects. The Official Community Plan defines a set of guidelines that apply to each type of development in Prince George and has designated all areas within 50 metres of fish-bearing watercourses and wetlands as Development Permit areas.
Riparian Protection is explained in the Zoning Bylaw under Section 8.9. For more information on development permits and how to apply for one, read Riparian Protection Development Permits – A Guide through the Process.
For information and guidance on wildlife, urban development, and riparian area protection:
To discuss a riparian development proposal with the City of Prince George, contact a planner at 250-561-7611.
Erosion and Sediment Control
Trees, shrubs, grasses, and other plants maintain soil stability by keeping it in place through root systems. Soil with vegetation growing in it promotes water absorption and restricts soil movement. Removing such plant life exposes soil, contributes to rapid surface water run-off, and quickens erosion. Vegetation removal is the leading cause of accelerated erosion and sediment mobilization, which can have damaging impacts on infrastructure and the environment.
Prince George addresses erosion and sediment control issues resulting from development through a permit application process requiring each submission to have Erosion and Sediment Control Plans prepared by a qualified environment professional. Implementing control measures before vegetation is removed from soil is critical to mitigate the effects of sediment mobilization.
what is erosion and sediment control?
Erosion is the natural process where soil (or rock) is worn away by flowing water, ice, or wind. Construction activity that strips or removes soil-stabilising vegetation like trees and shrubs can increase the rate of soil erosion and sediment mobilization by one or two orders of magnitude.
Erosion and Sediment Control (ESC) prevents sediment from contaminating stormwater and overland water flow by controlling the amount of soil exposed during construction. Sediment is a primary pollutant in watercourses. It can have a profoundly negative impact on aquatic habitats because sediment can bind with toxic pollutants like heavy metals. This is why, to protect aquatic environments, it is important to limit the amount of sediment entering the storm system and local watercourses.
what are the impacts of erosion?
Increased sediment mobilisation can:
- Disturb or destroy fish and invertebrate habitats by smothering spawning beds and incubating eggs. Sediment can also clog gills and suffocate aquatic animals.
- Fill in or block juvenile fish and invertebrate rearing habitats.
- Decrease water clarity, which impairs sight and the ability of fish to feed.
- Decrease bank stability.
- Deposit sediment in stream channels, which can change channel morphology and lead to increased flooding.
- Block stormwater catch basins and outfalls, which can also lead to increased flooding.