Protecting Your Sources - Water that is
More than 450,000 Albertans, including almost all Clearwater County residents, rely on groundwater for their domestic needs. The owner of a property is the owner of any water wells. whether active or unused. on their land. Not everyone understands the dynamics of groundwater or how to take care of water wells.
| PHOTO CREDIT: GARY LEWIS
Clear Water Landcare offers a "do-it-yourself” approach to shock chlorination (disinfecting) domestic water wells. We offer to source your water well report through the provincial database and to calculate your shock chlorination (bleach to water) formula. For more complex concerns we can connect you with an Alberta Agriculture water expert. A mix tank is available to rent ($35 per day) along with a measuring (sounding) device to check a wells static water level in your well ($50 refundable deposit).
For more than a decade the Working Well program has travelled Alberta teaching water well management and aquifer protection. To date we have hosted more than twenty workshops. Watch for more Working Well workshops coming soon to Clearwater County.
The Working Well program have factsheets to guide well owners. Click here
for a complete listing.
| PHOTO CREDIT: CLEARWATER COUNTY
Those human-made ground disturbances used to collect water are valuable and vulnerable. Most dugouts in Clearwater County are filled primarily with shallow groundwater and to a lesser degree topped up with surface water additions. That means a dugout is at risk from two sources. It also means the dugout may put other sources at risk.
It is possible for a dugout to contribute to contamination of a water well. A shallow water well may share the same shallow aquifer with a dugout. Another possibility is a groundwater dugout in a low area sharing the same aquifer with a deep water well at a higher elevation.
Surface water can wash manure and other contaminants into dugouts. Allowing livestock direct access quickly compromises water quality. Running livestock in close proximity to intake areas of a dugout is a conduit for nutrients to enter the water.
The key is protection. Using vegetation and fencing to capture and filter run on water is helpful. Pumping water out of the dugout to a desirable site or using a wet well installation are beneficial strategies. Rotating grazing to maintain adequate soil cover will reduce sedimentation.
Occasionally, using a water well is a better environmental and herd health choice. Topography may allow for a gravity distribution system or shallow or surface pipeline supply.
(Paper book copies available through Clearwater County Ag Services)
Ever wonder how much water your dugout can hold or how big a dugout to construct? Click here
to check out the calculator designed for lagoons but works for sizing dugouts.
Spring into Action
Clearwater County has areas with prolific groundwater springs. It may be possible to use as a water source, but it must be done right to not damage the spring. Click here
to learn more.
Make Sense of Septic
A common contaminant of water wells and overall risk to human health is through septic system inadequacy or failure. More than 95 percent of county residents have these private wastewater systems.
Septic Sense is a program offered in collaboration with the Alberta Onsite Wastewater Management Association (AOWMA are the people who train and certify installers) and the Land Stewardship Center. These workshops are beneficial to both farm and acreage residents.
Something Fishy - Aquaculture
Pond Scum 101 - Blue-Green Algae/Cyanobacteria
to learn more about aeration as an essential component of a healthy dugout through a Farmer Express article featuring Clearwater County’s West Country Ag Tour dugout stop and comments from an Alberta Ag water specialist.
Soil - Understanding The Basics
Soils are the building blocks for everything we grow and one of the limiting factors, along with water, light and temperature, to success agriculture, horticulture and agro-forestry. There are a host of soil macro and micro-nutrients, each having a role in plant vigor. To mention a few:
- Roots. Phosphorus makes for good roots and is particularly important for seedlings. Poor
- Shoots. Nitrogen makes for green growth, but excess nitrogen may inhibit fruiting and flowering. Yellowing leaves may indicate nitrogen deficiency. Applying nitrogen at late in the season may set the plant up for winter damage.
- Fruits (and Flowers). Potassium helps with general health of plants and is a key to fruiting, flowers resiliency to pests, drought and disease.
Source: University of Saskatchewan
Then there are the host on microscopic fungi, nematodes and more.
Soil pH is a factor not only in the presence of or lack of nutrients but also in how available nutrients are to plants.
Soil Sampling and Testing
Hundreds of pages can and have been written about soil. Everyone from the dedicated farmer to the backyard gardener needs to know as much possible about the soil. Having soil tested is a decision making tool. Clearwater County has soil sampling tools and a list of private sector sampling analysis.
To learn more about soil testing and sampling click here
Conservation Tillage (Reduced Tillage)
Conservation tillage, sometimes referred to as reduced tillage, practices remain extremely important.
Differing terms, such as no-till, zero tillage and direct seeding, are often used. Simply put, conservation tillage uses the least invasive means of seeding. Using a single pass seed, often accompanied with fertilizer, is placed in soil using low disturbance. The majority of the soil remains intact with less than 40 percent disturbed. Residues remain anchored in the soil, microbial content stays intact, erosion minimized and carbon content mostly intact.
Pollinators are essential to food production. Bees, butterflies, hummingbirds and even bats are examples of pollinators. Some plants are pollinated by the wind. Sometimes one plant needs to be within proximity of another to ensure seed or fruit set. Encouraging pollinators in fields, gardens, wooded and riparian areas helps secure our food supply.
Some selective herbicides are designed to bind to soil to deter germination of seeds in the immediate area of a broadleaf plant which has been controlled. Depending on soil type, this residual activity can remain effective up to three years. Some non-selective herbicides are designed to keep ground bare of vegetation and likewise have enduring properties for a period of years. In both cases the residuals can "migrate” through water erosion, high water table or other movement of soil (manure in corrals, topsoil from pastures, composted grass clippings). Herbicides are carefully regulated and certain restrictions apply when using near certain land uses and water. Setbacks from streams, desirable trees and public property are not suggestions they are requirements. Pasture products are for pasture only and must not be applied to lawns otherwise your garden or flower beds are at risk. Turf products are for lawns and not intended to be used off label. Crop products are for crops. Industrial-only products are not for the farm. The picture and the consequences are quite clear you would agree.
Not every bug is a bad bug. In many cases good bugs feed on pest bugs before they become adults and in other cases go after the adults themselves. Lady beetles eat aphids. Big Eyed Bugs have a general appetite for a host of pests. Parasitic wasps can help control Bertha army worms. Blister Beetles eat grasshopper eggs. Ground beetles attack caterpillars. Use caution with insecticides in greenhouses, gardens and in fields. When an insecticide is absolutely necessary try to choose a product and timing that is specific to the pest with the least impact on the beneficial bugs.
In some cases, and research is ongoing, there are bugs introduced into an environment that actually target weeds. An example of this biological control is control of Leafy Spurge using a flea beetle which purges the Spurge so to speak.
Trees, Shrubs and Other Plants
| PHOTO CREDIT: CLEARWATER COUNTY
Even in the settled area on the east side of Clearwater County, there are large wooded areas. These treed spaces are not waste areas but natural capital to be appreciated and managed.
When looking to recover a treed area or bolster it with new seedlings, consider your sources carefully. Choose a reputable supplier of native plants common to your area. Not every nursery seedling is a zone two or three. Beware of potentially invasive plants like sea buckthorn and caragana. Know the kinds of trees that are noxious and prohibited noxious by law.
To see a full list of all plants including trees and shrubs species click here
With one hundred years of settlement west of the 5th meridian, shelterbelts go back about as far as the defunct PFRA. Trees were planted to protect livestock, residences and other structures, improve the appearance of yards and create habitat for wildlife.
Today, trees can be sourced through private nurseries, from crown land or municipal right-of-way through a provincial permit system, grown from seed or cuttings or transplanted from neighbors.
PHOTO CREDIT: CLEARWATER COUNTY
is a great nursery for ornamental trees and shrubs located in Edmonton.
For establishing farm shelterbelts see the following Alberta Agriculture and Forestry publications:
Natures rebar – woody vegetation helps fortify riparian areas
Root mass from trees, shrubs and even some grasses are like the offensive line protecting the quarterback in football. In recent years the average NFL lineman is six foot-five and weighs 312 pounds. Sounds like a willow to me.
Tree permits for transplants
The province has designated areas on Crown Provincial land where trees may be dug for transplants. Click here
for a map of the Rocky Mountain House region.
A TM66 permit is required for transplant trees and is the same permit purchased for firewood or Christmas trees. Permits cost is five dollars and are valid for 30 days. For full information click here