Water Quality

Nation-wide experience for practical project-specific assessments

Water quality studies facilitate the protection of healthy aquatic environments for both current and future shared use. Water quality assessments determine the available nutrients, essential elements and potential contaminants in surface waters relative to established federal and provincial water quality guidelines, developed with the aim of protecting drinking supply, aquatic life, recreational, wildlife and/or agricultural uses of water.

Palmer Environmental Consulting Group Inc. (PECG) provides water quality expertise to conduct project-specific water quality assessments and provide critical guidance to clients for minimizing impacts to the aquatic receiving environment and meeting regulatory requirements.

Our water quality work supports aquatic baseline and impact assessments, and environmental effects monitoring and permitting, through three core disciplines:

Baseline Characterization

Water quality studies measure nutrients, essential elements and potential contaminants in surface waters relative to established federal and provincial water quality guidelines, which have been developed with the aim of protecting a wide range of uses.

Baseline characterization provides the benchmark for measuring changes induced by project development. PECG water quality specialists have designed and implemented several baseline water quality programs in both river and lake systems for various sectors, including mining, energy and water and wastewater.

Site-specific Water Quality Objectives

Site-specific water quality objectives (SSWQOs) may be required when water quality parameters are predicted to exceed established federal or provincial water quality guidelines following development. SSWQOs may be derived using existing guidelines from other jurisdictions, scientific studies or site-specific toxicity testing, or may be based on the extent of natural baseline variability in the watershed.

PECG has experience working through the challenges of developing SSWQOs for many of our projects, recognizing that appropriate water quality objectives are required to protect all users of the water body while also allowing development to proceed.

Aquatic Risk Assessment

Aquatic risk assessments (ARAs) evaluate the potential for contamination of aquatic biota due to changes in water quality. Typical risk assessments evaluate the likelihood and magnitude of adverse effects to ecological receptors as a result of exposure to contaminants. ARAs are necessary for investigating site-specific risks where established federal or provincial water quality guidelines may be exceeded following development.

At PECG, we team up with certified risk assessors and other experts as required to thoroughly assess the potential impacts to local receptors from a risk perspective. We understand that some aspects of an ARA are based on a combination of science and human values. The inherent uncertainty in risk evaluations means careful communication of results is a critical part of an ARA. Our focus in ARAs is always to strike a balance between scientific rationale and human values.