MRRRWQSI: Water Quality Sampling

The need for water quality monitoring of Ridge Reservoir

In 1994, The Raymond Reservoir Generating Station built by Irrican Power. This generating station diverted a large amount of water from the Ridge Reservoir (80-95%), greatly increasing residence time in the Ridge Reservoir.

In 1996, St. Mary River Irrigation District begins program to monitor water quality of the water entering, leaving and in the Milk River Ridge Reservoir to determine if there are any changes associated with the diversion of water through the hydro plant at Raymond Reservoir. Madawaska Consulting prepared these reports from 1996 to 2003.

In 1998, Ridge Water Users contacted PFRA with concerns about taste and odor in water delivered via pipeline from the Ridge Reservoir.

In 2002, Chinook Health Region contacted PFRA with concerns of water quality in the Ridge Reservoir which initiated the forming of the Ridge Reservoir Committee and the follow up water quality study.

In 2003, Ridge Reservoir Committee formed to develop and coordinate a collaborative study of the Ridge Reservoir and catchment basin. Committee Members: Town of Raymond, PFRA, Environment Canada, University of Calgary, Health Canada and Chinook Health Region

In 2003-2007, A Study by Sue Watson, Bunny Mah, Shannon Braithewaite documented issues with water quality, livestock entering reservoir, dead livestock near or in reservoir, algal blooms. Water quality data taken from 2003 to 2007.

In 2004, The  St. Mary River Irrigation District Main Canal Drops #4, #5, #6 were brought on-line.

In 2014, Milk River Ridge Reservoir Water Quality Stewardship Initiative (MRRWQSI) begins. The Stewardship working Group includes the following parties:

  • Alberta Environment and Parks
  • Alberta Conservation Association
  • County of Warner
  • Ridge Water Services Commission

Water Quality Program

Water monitoring and sampling is done at the tributaries and from the waterbody of Ridge Reservoir. 

The collection of baseline water quality data allows the assessment of parameter trends, therefore if mitigation measures are taken at the reservoir lands, i.e. shrub planting, corridor fencing, implementation of phosphorus filters. Following the implementation of these measures the monitoring data can be used to determine the general effect on water quality to direct future action. 

Pelican's enjoying the weather at Milk River Ridge Reservoir IslandMilk River Ridge Reservoir outlet to Cross Coulee Reservoir, near RR#3.Milk River Ridge Reservoir Tributary

Sampling intervals

In 2020, samples were collected on the following dates: 


  • April 16, 20, 29  
  • May 6, 21, 26
  •  June 4, 9, 17
  • July 9, 15, 30
  • August 20, 26
  • September 10, 24, and
  • November 2.


  • May 26, 28
  • June 4, 17
  • July 9, 15, 30
  • August 20, 26
  • September 10,  24

Sampling locations:

In the following figure, the Tributary sampling locations are shown as TRIB##, Reservoir sampling locations are shown as RR##Milk River Ridge Reservoir Water Quality Stewardship Initiative
Water Quality Monitoring Locations



The initial step in conducting water monitoring and sampling at the tributaries, is to determine if the drainage is conveying water which is dependent upon recent precipitation, or temperature conditions melting winter snowpack. 

Staff travel to the tributary locations, conduct a work safety hazard assessment, and then proceed to collect data which includes; The collection of time, temperature, and physical water quality data using a YSI meter water temperature and dissolved oxygen (%L and mg/L). The YSI meter probe is placed within the flowing water of the channel drainage, and not in a eddy or stagnant water as the measurement of dissolved oxygen is consumptive.

A water velocity measurement is collected using a SonTek FlowTracker2.

A grab sample from the channel is collected by rinsing the sample bottles, which are then submerged into the channel to collect the sample using an extension pole. 

Samples are placed within a cooler with ice, and submitted to a third party lab for analysis.


The collection of data and samples are completed using a recreational motorboat. The boat is transported to the site and unloaded from the Ridge Park boat launch. Safety is a substantial part of this program, and staff are required to complete a detailed work safety hazard assessment and wear all required PPE and work in pairs.

Following the unloading of the boat, staff from the County of Warner and Ridge Water Services Commission work cooperatively to conduct load the boat with equipment and travel to the sampling locations.

Upon arriving at the sampling locations,  the boat is anchored and depth measurements to the reservoir substrate are collected, as well as turbidity measurements using a secchi disk. A Secchi disk is a 20 cm diameter, flat disk with alternating black and white quarter-circles. It is used to provide a visual measure of water clarity or optical depth, by lowering it into the water and determining the depth where the disk disappears from view. The higher the Secchi disk reading, the clearer the lake.  

The YSI meter is used to collect water temperature and dissolved oxygen measurements. 

Samples are collected from the reservoir using a special pump, the inlet of the pump, a Tygon plastic tubing with stainless steel weights,  is lowered into the water to two times the depth of the secchi disk measurement. 

Photographs and GPS coordinates are collected at each sampling locations.

Milk River Ridge Reservoir sampling location RR#3, near water outlet to Cross Coulee ReservoirSMRID pipeline used to fill the wetland during dry periods of the year

Milk River Ridge Reservoir shoreline north of the rustic camping area of East Bay

Analytical parameters:

Tributaries. The following parameters are analyzed for samples collected from the tributaries;

  • Routine
  • Bacteriological
  • Dissolved Nutrients, Total Dissolved Phosphorus
  • Total Nutrients

Reservoir. The following parameters are analyzed for samples collected from the tributaries;

  • Routine
  • Chlorphyll-a
  • Dissolved Nutrients, Total Dissolved Phosphorus
  • Total Nutrients


The following reports and presentations have been completed to date:

2014-15 MRRRWQSI Water Quality, Alberta Environment and Parks

2017-18 MRRRWQSI Water Quality, Alberta Environment and Parks

MRRRWQSI Historic Data Report for the County of Warner, Zaitlin GeoConsulting Ltd.

Pelican's at the Milk River Ridge Reservoir

Wetland tributary five inlet into Milk River Ridge ReservoirCross Coulee Reservoir RR#5 sampling location