Prince Edward Island (PEI) is quite intensively farmed, and heavily reliant upon it’s natural water resources and therefore is an ideal location to study environmental impacts of agricultural practices on water quality. PEI receives approximately 1,100 mm of rainfall annually. Of this, approximately 400 mm infiltrates the soil and recharges the groundwater, 440 is lost through evapotranspiration and the remaining 260 mm runs off land into surface waters. PEI is solely reliant upon groundwater as its drinking water source, but due to elevated levels of rainfall and the high recharge rate (due to porous sandstone layers), the groundwater resource is highly susceptible to contaminants. Streams in PEI are generally quite small, and much of the water in them comes from the ground, therefore there is a strong correlation between groundwater and surface water levels and quality.
As such, the potential impacts of agricultural practices on both surface and groundwaters can be significant, making PEI an ideal location to conduct water quality studies.
Atlantic AgriTech has been involved in numerous water-related research trials over the past 20 years. Through this work, we have developed expertise in groundwater and surface water monitoring and sampling and have several ‘model’ sites where such work can be conducted.
Following are some examples of water quality related projects we have been involved.
Atlantic Canada river monitoring project to support re-evaluation of an older herbicide
AgriTech led a project to monitor numerous rivers throughout Atlantic Canada for presence of a common agricultural herbicide that has been used for decades. The purpose of the study was to determine the extent by which the product might enter major rivers through runoff, especially after significant rainfall events. The study required establishment of autonomous water samplers in remote areas, triggered by rainfall and other events. This project was done following GLP’s.
Groundwater modeling and monitoring study
Atlantic AgriTech Inc was also involved in the establishment of several ‘model’ sites to evaluate the potential risk to groundwater from an ‘older’ active ingredient that has been used in PEI for many years. This project required identification of sites with suitable crop histories to ensure the target material may be present. Extensive hydrogeological mapping and modelling was conducted, through the drilling of multiple test wells at each site, to fully characterize the sites. Daily groundwater samples were collected from autonomous samplers over an extended period, to correlate lab analyses with the models.
Runoff study to determine potential for surface water contamination from agricultural inputs
Atlantic AgriTech Inc also designed and managed a GLP study to evaluate the potential for aquatic impacts from a pesticide commonly used in the region. A wetland / pond environment, fully surrounded by agricultural cropland, was selected to establish a site to monitor the potential runoff and subsequent risks to aquatic organisms. After application, regular monitoring of soil, water and sediment was conducted to monitor for off site movement.
Nitrate modeling study
In collaboration with the PEI Department of Agriculture, Atlantic AgriTech Inc helped develop a model to predict and map nitrate loading levels, by watershed, across PEI. Nitrate levels were modelled using the number and size of various farm operations in each watershed, thereby developing a dynamic GIS map of nitrate loading. This system has been used to model risks from nitrate contamination, and to develop strategies for reducing nitrate loading in sensitive watersheds.