Changes in Battle River Water Flows (volumes)* from 1912 to 2001
- Natural water flows (volumes) in the Battle River can vary widely from year to year.
- This is because unlike most of Alberta’s major rivers, the Battle lacks a continuous, glacier-and-mountain-snowpack-fed source of water. Its water supply comes entirely from local rain and snow run-off, meaning it is a ‘prairie-fed’ river.
- Thus the Battle River’s natural flow varies widely, depending on thesnowpack and rainfall in any given year.
Average natural flow of the Battle River at the Alberta-Saskatchewan Border:
Seasonal water flows in the Battle River
- Water flows in the Battle River change with the season. The Battle River’s peak flows normally occur during spring run-off. After spring run-off, the Battle’s flow drops considerably, usually reaching its lowest point during the winter months.
- For a healthy ecosystem, high, flushing flows are needed to clean out the riverbed. This removes sediment build-up along with pollutants and partially decomposed vegetation.
- Prior to 2005, the Battle River had not experienced a major, cleansing flow for many years. This is partly because of drought, and partly because during spring run-off people divert much of the river’s flow to fill up reservoirs, diversion ponds and dams.
- Without these cleansing flows, sediments smother spawning areas and invertebrate habitat, and contribute to excessive growth of algae and other aquatic plants.
- Without flushing, the river channel silts in and becomes wider and shallower, resulting in more water loss to evaporation.
Percent of Battle River's natural flow used by humans
- Albertans consume about 60,000 cubic decametres of water from the Battle River every year.
- This water is used for domestic, industrial and agricultural purposes.
- Natural water flows in the Battle River vary from year to year.
- Legally, Alberta must ensure that 50% of the Battle River’s water reaches Saskatchewan.
- In drought years, there is not enough water in the Battle River to meet the needs of water users.
- Based on flow records from the last century, over a 100 year time period, there will likely be:
- 25 years where the Battle’s natural flow is more than that shown for a ‘wet’ year.
- 25 years where the Battle’s flow is less than that shown for the ‘dry’ year.
- 10 years where the Battle’s flow is less than that shown for the ‘drought’ year
Licensed Water Use in the Battle River (by sector)
Total volume of water licensed for use from the Battle R. =60,000 cubic decameters/year
Actual volume of water consumed from the Battle R. =45,000 cubic decameters/year
- There are currently 785 licences for water consumption from the Battle River
- These licences add up to 60,000 cubic decameters of water per year.
- However, not all licence-holder use 100% of the water they are licensed to use. For example, the oil and gas industry only uses a fraction of the water they are licensed to use.
- Thus, actual water use from the Battle River is only 45,000 cubic decameters of water per year.
Water quality in the Battle River
- Nutrients: such as nitrogen, ammonia and phosphorous enter the river from agricultural run-off, fertilizers, gas plants and municipal wastewater. High nutrient levels may cause algal blooms. Some blue-green algae can poison animals and people.
- Bacteria: E. coli and fecal coliform bacteria come from humans and animals. Bacteria enter the river from municipal wastewater and agricultural run-off.
- Dissolved Oxygen: fish and aquatic invertebrates need oxygen to survive. Algal blooms may deplete water of oxygen.
- pH: is a measure of acidity. Most aquatic animals can only survive small shifts in the pH they're naturally adapted to. pH can be affected by pollution, algal blooms or geology.
- Metals: levels of chromium, cadmium and copper in the Battle river occasionally exceed Canadian Water Quality guidelines. These metals are mostly from natural sources.
Below is water quality data from the two long-term water quality monitoring stations on the Battle River:
Excellent: Guidelines almost always met; best quality
Good: Guidelines occasionally exceeded, but usually by small amounts; threat to quality is minimal
Fair: Guidelines sometimes exceeded by moderate amounts; quality occasionally departs from desirable levels
Marginal: Guidelines often exceeded, sometimes by large amounts; quality is threatened, often departing from desirable levels
Poor: Guidelines almost always exceeded by large amounts; quality is impaired and well below desirable levels; worst quality
Riparian Areas in the Battle River
- Riparian vegetation is important because it:
- stabilizes streambanks and prevents erosion
- prevents flooding and stores water
- filters-out pollutants and sediments
- provides shelter and forage for livestock
- provides habitat for fish, wildlife and aquatic insects.
- The effects of expanding oil and gas exploration, forestry, agriculture, urban development, road construction, and other industries on riparian vegetation has been significant in many areas.
- Some riparian areas in the Battle watershed are healthy . These areas are generally in their native state with little or no human caused disturbances.
- However, in areas where stream banks or shorelines have been altered by human activities, riparian areas are unhealthy and not functioning well.
Fisheries in the Battle River
- The Battle River supports the most important fishery in east Central Alberta.
- Fish found in the Battle River include:
- northern pike above the Forestburg Dam
- northern pike, walleye, mooneye and goldeye below the Forestburg Dam.
- Fish populations in the Battle River have been negatively affected by the cumulative impacts of:
- dams and weirs impeding fish movement
- water withdrawals
- declining water quality
- general land use