The Elk River. (Phil McLachlan photo)

The Elk River. (Phil McLachlan photo)

Long-term study planned for Elk River

The alliance is hoping to track changes in water temperature around the valley for decades to come

The Elk River Alliance (ERA) is forging ahead with its project designed to record the water temperature in half a dozen Elk River tributaries.

“The point of this is to monitor long term trends, not individual months or years,” said ERA’s Beth Millions.

“This requires consistent, ongoing work so that small year to year variations can be evaluated through the lens of decade to decade trends.”

Millions explained that the study used small electronic devices placed in nearby rivers, and “assuming the devices survive winter freezes, floods, and curious humans/wildlife interaction the data is downloaded periodically and added to the ERA database. From there the data will be analyzed and made available to relevant entities.”

The project is still in the implementation stage, with ERA volunteers selecting the best sites and placing the devices around the valley.

“Next year we hope to expand the program to include additional temp and volume loggers … the program will produce hundreds of thousands of data points that need to be effectively managed and analysed before they’re of any use to anyone.”

Millions said that the effects of climate change would be felt in Fernie as much as anywhere else in the world, so it was important for there to be local initiatives.

“The effects of climate change will affect more than just basic temperature. We will likely see dryer conditions, and also more rainfall and less snow (because snow requires below freezing conditions). Water that would have been held in place as snow will flow into creeks over shorter time periods, so water levels will be more ‘flashy’, or have higher, more narrow spikes.

“Additionally, cutthroat trout (blue listed, critical to our local fishing economy) require cold water for their life cycles, so increasing temperatures will pressure them.”