Water and Watersheds
The City of Prince George relies on groundwater for its water supply. The preservation and protection of our river valleys, therefore, is critically important. This begins on a watershed scale, and is implemented by finding a balance between development and natural environmental processes. Every creek and drainage ditch within the City of Prince George, including the storm sewer system, is a component of the Nechako and Fraser River watersheds.
Prince George is home to two magnificent rivers, as well as several urban streams, which provide important spawning, rearing, and overwintering habitat for fish and wildlife species.
McMillan Creek, Parkridge Creek, Haggith Creek, and Bittner Creek support fish populations and provide fish habitat. Shane Lake, Ferguson Lake, and Hudson’s Bay Wetland also provide critical habitat for numerous fish and wildlife species.
All of these areas are linked to our groundwater resources that provide our clean, safe drinking water.
Water Systems and Cycles
The water cycle, or hydrological cycle, is the continuous exchange of water between the land, waterbodies, and the atmosphere. The amount of water on the planet remains constant; therefore it is important to protect water quality as it transfers throughout the environment.
Urban water systems include:
- drinking water
- waste water
- storm water
The City of Prince George works to protect water quality in these water systems through water quality sampling, waste discharge permits, development permit areas, and bylaws.
Image: An illustration of a well house beside the Nechako River and how it accesses City drinking water from an aquifer.
The City of Prince George relies on groundwater for all of its water supply. Over 80% of the City’s water wells tap into aquifers that are recharged by the Nechako River. City drinking water comes from 6 municipal wells that draw 17.8 billion litres of water each year from underground aquifers. By utilizing underground aquifers, residents are protected against bacteria and other pollutants often found in surface sources such as lakes or rivers. Treated water is pumped to and stored in 14 service reservoirs throughout the City. Water is supplied to homes either directly from water supply well pumps or from one of these reservoirs.
Our groundwater is vulnerable to contamination due to a thin protective covering. There are many potential sources of contamination located near to this valuable groundwater source. A reduction in water demand slows the movement of any potential contaminants into and through the aquifer, making it easier to treat, and easier to avoid potential contamination.
In addition, groundwater supports river flows and supplies wetlands, lakes, and other important natural features.
Groundwater Protection Development Permit Areas regulate development within groundwater capture zones to reduce the potential risk of contamination. Proposed development within a Groundwater Protection Development Permit Area may require a
Groundwater Protection Development Permit.
wastewater - source control
Source Control plays a significant role in protecting our environment. City staff work with local industries, businesses, institutions, and residents to restrict the materials and substances that can be discharged to the sewer system. This is accomplished through the use of a sewer bylaw, waste discharge permits, inspections, audit sampling, public education, and enforcement.
The main objectives of the Source Control Program are:
- To manage the demand for service;
- To protect sewer workers and the public from discharges to the sewer of materials that are toxic, flammable, or explosive;
- To protect the sewer infrastructure from corrosive materials such as acids, or from materials such as grease, sand or rocks, that can clog the sewer system and lead to sewer backups;
- To protect the wastewater treatment processes from substances or conditions which may upset the treatment processes and generate poor quality discharge;
- To protect the environment from substances which cannot be removed by the treatment processes; and
- To improve the quality of bio solids to enhance their recycling into soil improvement materials.
Waste Discharge Permits
Waste Discharge Permits are regulatory documents issued under the City of Prince George
Sanitary Sewer Bylaw to industries, businesses or other operations that discharge or plan to discharge, significant non-domestic wastewater flows or wastewater containing high loads of specified chemical contaminants into the sanitary sewer. Permit holders are required to follow permit conditions, including sampling and testing their waste, recording flows, and reporting to the Source Control Program on a regular basis. Source Control staff perform inspections and audit monitoring to ensure permit compliance.
Learn more about the City of Prince George’s Sanitary Sewer.
stormwater and drainage
Rainfall, snowmelt, and stormwater runoff from roads, parking lots and industrial areas enter the storm sewer system and will eventually flow into our City’s streams and watercourses. Any water that goes down a catch basin or drainage ditch is not treated; therefore it is important to be mindful of our impact on stormwater quality. This runoff often contains harmful contaminants such as sediment, oil, grease, salt, metals, and hydrocarbons.
City of Prince George Storm Sewer System Bylaw No. 2656, 1974 restricts the discharge of contaminants such as sediment, hydrocarbons, sewage or toxic waste to the storm sewer system. Learn more about the
City of Prince George’s Storm Water Drainage.
Because water quality is vital to people, fish, plants and animals, the BC Ministry of Environment has established strict water quality standards for municipalities, industry and residents. Learn more about Provincial standards and best practices for
Urban Stormwater Management.
Riparian habitats are the areas that surround waterbodies (i.e. lakes, ponds, creeks, rivers) and are composed of moist soils and water-loving plant species that protect the stream environment.
riparian habitats and development permits
Riparian areas, including river and creek systems, provide habitat to salmon and trout species, water fowl, river otters, beavers, several species of birds, deer, moose, and several other wildlife species. The preservation of riparian habitats is important to fish and wildlife:
- Riparian vegetation that borders and overhangs stream environments moderates stream temperatures by providing shading and cooling effects, as well as fish and animal hiding places;
- Leaves, branches, twigs and older trees provide nutrients;
- Fallen trees help slow down flowing water, which protects stream banks and creates deeper pools for fish;
- Vegetation roots along banks provide structure and protect shorelines from eroding;
- Amphibians breed in waterbodies, and must remain close throughout their life. Riparian habitats protect them from drying out; and,
- Several species of wildlife utilize riparian habitats as transportation corridors, thus protection of leave strips allows the maintenance of biodiversity and retains wildlife habitat.
Riparian Habitats also provide vital ecosystem services:
- Stream bank stability;
- Filtering and purifying water;
- Soaking up and storing water during heavy precipitation events;
- Providing shelter and nutrients for animals;
- Breaking down contaminants
Riparian areas are protected in the City of Prince George through the
Riparian Protection Development Permit to ensure that these habitats are properly managed during the development process.
The City of Prince George’s main goals for enhancing and protecting the City's watercourses are:
- To protect remaining riparian areas along city creeks, and to encourage restoration of riparian areas on both public and private lands.
- To improve water quality in creek systems and reduce instances of point source and non-point source pollution.
- To support groups and events such as BC River's Day, REAPS, and the Nechako Watershed Roundtable to help educate the public on local water-related issues.
Riparian Area Development Permits
Riparian Protection Development Permits (DP's) allow the City of Prince George to manage specifics with regards to the environment in development. The
Official Community Plan defines a set of development guidelines that apply to each type of development within Prince George. It has designated all areas within 50 metres of fish-bearing watercourses and wetlands as Riparian Protection Development Permit Areas. Riparian Protection is explained in the
Zoning Bylaw under Section 8.9. For more information read
Riparian Protection Development Permits – A Guide through the Process. Contact a Planner (250-561-7611) if you wish to discuss your proposal. More information on wildlife, urban development and riparian area protection can be found on the
Ministry of Environment website Develop With Care and
What can you do to protect the stream and riparian area in your yard?
- Leave all trees and shrubs in place
- Do not pile compost, lawn clippings, or debris
- Do not use fertilizers
- Sheds or similar structures cannot be built in riparian areas without prior approval from the City of Prince George
Erosion and Sediment Control
Trees, shrubs, grasses, and other forms of vegetation maintain soil stability by keeping soils in place through root systems. Vegetated soils promote water infiltration and cover soils to restrict soil mobilization. Removal of vegetation exposes soils and contributes to more rapid surface water run-off and accelerates erosion. The City of Prince George is working to address erosion and sediment control issues associated with developments through the development permit application process by requiring Erosion and Sediment Control Plans prepared by a Qualified Environmental Professional. The implementation of erosion and sediment control measures prior to vegetation removal is critical for mitigating the impacts of sediment mobilization. Vegetation removal is the leading cause of accelerated erosion and sediment mobilization, which can have detrimental effects on infrastructure and the environment.
what is erosion and sediment control?
Erosion is the natural process of the detachment and transport of soil particles. Construction activities that strip or remove soil-stabilizing vegetative cover can increase the rate of soil erosion and sediment mobilization by one to two orders of magnitude. Erosion and Sediment Control (ESC) is the practice of preventing sediment contamination of stormwater and overland water flow by controlling the amount of exposed soils during construction. Sediment is a primary pollutant in watercourses as it poses negative impacts to aquatic habitats and binds with other toxic pollutants, such as heavy metals. Mitigating increased sediment mobilization from the storm system and local watercourses is important in protecting aquatic environments.
what are the impacts of erosion?
Increased sediment mobilization can have the following impacts:
- Disturbing or destroying fish habitat by smothering spawning beds, incubating eggs and aquatic invertebrate habitats. Sediment clogs fish and aquatic invertebrate gills making them unable to breathe;
- Infilling juvenile fish and invertebrate rearing habitats;
- Decreased water clarity which impairs sight and fish ability to feed;
- Decreased bank stability
- Sediment deposition in stream channels which can alter channel morphology and lead to increased flooding; and,
- Blocked stormwater catch basins and outfalls which can increase flooding potential.
What Can I Do To Protect My Local Water And Watersheds?
Protecting our watersheds has important environmental benefits and helps to ensure the availability of safe drinking water. Everyone in the City plays a role in ensuring the sustainability of our water resources for generations to come.
Stormwater quality is greatly affected by what it picks up off the ground as it runs down the road and into the storm sewer. Water that enters the storm sewer is not treated, and discharges into natural watercourses that are habitat for fish and wildlife species. Sediments/mud, salts, pesticides, fertilizers, grease and oil from vehicles and other contaminants are picked up by stormwater runoff and eventually end up in fish habitat.
Many people do not realize that whatever goes down the catch basin and into storm drain goes directly into our creeks and watershed. Watch these educational videos on what you can do to help protect our local streams, rivers, and aquatic habitats.
Tip #1: Washing your vehicle
Did you know: when washing your vehicle, all soap, dirt, and sediment flows directly into rivers, streams and fish habitat from the storm drains?
Tip #2: Riding your dirt bike or quad
All mud sent down the storm drain goes directly into the homes and habitat of fish and aquatic life, clouding the environment and making breathing very difficult.
Tip #3: Dispose of trash properly
Tip #4: Prevent any leaks
Tip #5: Prevent soil erosion
Did you know: mud and dirt from construction sites can be harmful to fish and aquatic life? Clearing trees, grading slopes, and excavating and stockpiling materials exposes the soil. When it rains, the mud and dirt are moved from the site, then to the untreated storm water system, and eventually into creeks and watersheds.
Other tips to protect streams
There are a number of simple solutions that we can incorporate into our day-to-day activities that can help protect stormwater quality:
- Don’t wash your car in your driveway. The most environmentally friendly option is to use a commercial car wash, as the water goes into the treated sanitary sewer system.
- Don’t spray clean your driveway to remove salts and dirt, as this eventually ends up in the storm drain.
- Avoid getting mud around storm sewers, don’t rinse off muddy equipment near a storm drain.
- Pave as little of your property as possible. Gravel, brick or interlocking pavers allow rain to infiltrate back into the ground rather than runoff over impermeable concrete or asphalt.
- Direct rain gutters into rain barrels or onto your 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 use of fertilizers and pesticides.
- Check for and fix leaks from vehicles, lawn mowers, snow blowers and other gas-operated machinery frequently.
The goal of water conservation planning is to achieve more efficient water use by residential, industrial, commercial and institutional consumers in the City of Prince George. Water conservation is often perceived to be restrictive and associated with personal inconvenience and rationing. Water conservation is, however; not only a matter of using less water through use limits such as sprinkling regulations, but also involves careful management of water resources using a wide variety of methods.
In 2015, City of Prince George residents used on average 611 litres of water per capita per day (L/c/d) which is 42% higher than the provincial average of 353 L/c/d and 56% higher than the national average of 274 L/c/d.
City Water Conservation Plan
The City of Prince George Water Conservation Plan 2016 was approved by Council in August 2016. The goal of the 2016 Water Conservation Plan is a 20% reduction in water demand over 10 years.
The Plan identified 5 Water Conservation Strategies, each with several action items, to reach this goal:
- Sprinkling Restrictions
- Water Metering
- Water Loss Management Program
- Leak Detection and Repair Program
- Educational and Outreach Programs
City Leadership in Advancing Water-Use Efficiency
Read the City of Prince George Water Conservation Plan 2016 to learn more about these strategies.
volunteer residential water metering program
In 2005 the City of Prince George implemented a Water Conservation Plan to ensure that the City’s drinking water supply remains reliable and safe and continues to meet the needs of our community. As part of that program, a Voluntary Water Meter Program was initiated. Over a three year period, fifty-eight homes participated in the voluntary water meter program and in subsequent years, these homes saw an average decrease of 30% in their water usage.
There are a number of benefits for a Water Utility that utilizes water meters as it allows for:
- more accurate tracking of water consumption
- more precise knowledge on leakage within the system
- onsite monitoring to ensure proper billing
Besides the financial benefits, water meters also provide customers with a way to measure their consumption. This makes it easier to detect and repair water leaks that can waste thousands of litres of water every year.
The City of Prince George will incur the cost of the water meter and the plumbing permit. The home owner will incur the full cost of all of the installation of the water meter, all pipe fittings and adapters, and any construction required to repair damage created through the installation of the water meter.
The point of contact for all inquiries with respect to the Volunteer Residential Water Meter program is Development Services (2nd Floor City Hall) at 250-561-7611.
Here are some important documents and frequently asked questions for this program:
City of Prince George Volunteer Residential Water Meter Checklist
Report to Council- Volunteer Water Meters
Volunteer Water Metering FAQs
Volunteer Residential Water Meter Installation Agreement
water conservation tips
Ever wonder where all the water goes in a typical home? Most of it goes down the toilet or on your lawn, and surprisingly, very little of it is used for actual drinking! Follow the three waterwise Rs:
Reduce: Reducing your water use is as simple as turning off the tap while brushing your teeth, operating dishwashers and washing machines with full loads.
Repair: Fix leaks as soon as you find them. Leaky taps and toilets cost you money.
Retrofit: Install faucet aerators, replace an old showerhead with a new, low-flow model, or replace an old toilet with an ultra-low flush model. Water used in the bathroom can be reduced up to 50%.
Here are more tips to decrease your water consumption and use water wisely:
- Don’t leave the tap running while you brush teeth, soap your hands, or shave.
- When washing dishes by hand, use a sink full of rinse water rather than letting the water run.
- Keep a jug of cold drinking water in the fridge to keep drinking water cool.
- Use a lid when boiling water on the stove to prevent water loss through evaporation.
- Water your houseplants or flower garden with cooled cooking water, or vegetable and fruit rinse water. Catch and use water that is normally wasted while you wait for hot water to come down the pipes.
- Only run the washing machine with full loads, but don’t overfill to prevent having to wash twice.
- Replace your old toilet with a low flow 6 L flush model to reduce overall water consumption by 20%.
- Limit showers to 5 minutes.
- Install a low flow shower head. This can save 10 L of water per minute, and technology has improved so much that you won’t notice any difference in your shower.
- Water lawns in the morning and evening when water won’t evaporate as quickly.
- Make sure the water lands on the vegetation, and not on streets or sidewalks.
- Use a broom instead of a hose to sweep sidewalks and driveways.
- Purchase a Rain Barrel from
REAPS to water your plants!