You can’t see the specific conductivity of water but you can measure it. Can you taste it? Our YSI meter measures specific conductivity and gives us a precise number (microSiemens per centimetre). Specific Conductivity is useful as an indication of mineral content. Are there other ways to determine specific conductivity? Maybe. Dave Weaver, for instance, brings a cup.
When I first saw Dave “sampling” water from Waterloo Creek I expressed concerns about Giardia, or “Beaver Fever”. Dave wasn’t worried. The streams flow swift and clean above our sampling points with little in the way of broad, quiet pools where Giardia flourishes. And Dave is a retired Professional Forester who spent a lot of his career in the bush. These days, he spends much of his free time hiking, camping, kayaking and skiing. If he’s comfortable drinking from Waterloo Creek, I’m willing to give it a go.
Of course, Dave brings much more to the Beaufort Watershed Stewards (BWS) than a sampling cup and a taste for clean, fresh water. When we first set up our sampling program, we spent some time getting permission from property owners. Dave seemed to know everyone we contacted: the manager at Island Timberlands (now Mosaic), the manager at the K’omoks First Nation (even if only through email), and all the various industry names that came up in those conversations. This is hardly surprising as Dave spent twelve years working for the Province in the Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations. This experience means he has a deep understanding of the regulations around logging and also a keen awareness of how these regulations are administered. But his knowledge is not all theoretical and administrative. Dave has also worked for timber companies, managing sections of forest in the area around Smithers as well as operating his own Wood Lot License for ten years.
Dave’s experience is invaluable in helping us understand the impacts of logging practices on watershed health. His perspective helps us avoid knee-jerk opposition to logging in general while at the same time helps us understand the deep structural flaws in the current system of regulation and what it means for our watersheds.
His understanding of the logging industry, as well as his energy and work ethic, are critical contributions to BWS. But the most entertaining aspect of Dave’s contribution is when we walk through the woods with him to our sampling sites. He has a wealth of knowledge on all things related to trees, from Provincial legislation regarding log exports to methods for avoiding a particular pathogen that attacks white pines. He shares this knowledge cheerfully with the air of a professor who is passionate about his field. One is not surprised to learn that Dave not only taught Forestry for ten years but also developed and administered forestry programs at Northwest Community College in Smithers.
But can you really tell that the mineral content (as measured by Specific Conductivity) is 20 microSiemens per centimetre higher for Waterloo Creek than it is for Mud Bay Creek simply by taking a sip? Well, we think we can taste a slight a difference. Not that it’s the kind of data we would submit to the Province. But while we DON’T encourage you to ignore public health warnings about Giardia and drink from the creek, as we sometimes do, we DO encourage you to take advantage of a great opportunity to hear some of Dave’s woodland knowledge. In honour of Earth Day this year, Dave has agreed to host two nature walks through a small but beautiful section of Waterloo Creek that is graced with a rare stand of mature Grand Fir. Look for the advertisement elsewhere in this issue of the Flyer for details.
And no, you don’t need to bring a cup!