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Nutrient absorbing ‘floating treatment wetlands’ coming to Shuswap waterway

Research project to investigate impact on water quality
Floating treatment wetlands will be placed in the Salmon River this spring for a research project focused on removing nutrients and contaminants flowing into Shuswap Lake. (Photo contributed)

An experimental approach to reducing the amount of nutrients going into Shuswap Lake will be floating on the Salmon River this summer.

Royal Roads University Master’s student and biologist Margot Webster will the studying the river’s water quality and how manmade “floating treatment wetlands” (FTWs) might help to preserve and improve the quality of water flowing into Shuswap Lake.

“Floating treatment wetlands are a kind of nature-based solution that can improve water quality by absorbing nutrients and contaminants from a waterbody,” Webster explains in a May 27 Shuswap Watershed Council (SWC) media release. “They are a simple, low-cost treatment with many ecological benefits. My research project will investigate how effective they are in the Salmon River.”

The SWC noted how past studies and monitoring have shown the Salmon River “carries a significant load of phosphorus and other nutrients to the lake which have contributed to the formation of nuisance algal blooms” in the Salmon Arm Bay area of Shuswap Lake.

Webster will be constructing three FTWs using wooden raft materials, matting and netting, with native species of wetland plants planted on the structures that will be installed/anchored in the Salmon River.

“Webster will monitor water quality above and below the FTWs throughout the field season, and analyse tissue samples from the plants in order determine how much nutrients the FTWs take up from the river water. The field season will conclude this fall,” said the SWC.

This research project is being supported with funding from the BC Graduate Scholarship and the SWC, with resource contributions from the BC Ministry of Environment & Climate Change Strategy.

“We’re really pleased to be supporting this research,” said SWC chair Rhona Martin. “This is an important water quality issue locally. We look forward to hearing the results and, potentially, considering how constructed floating wetlands could be a tool to improve water quality in the Shuswap watershed.”

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