Watershed Investigation Under Changing Climate Conditions in Ontario

G360 PROJECT TEAM:  Dr. Jana Levison & Elisha Persaud (PhD Candidate)

To assess the potential influence of climate change on watershed hydrologic processes, an integrated monitoring and modelling investigation of the Upper Parkhill watershed in southwestern Ontario is underway, led by principal investigators Dr. Jana Levison, Scott MacRitchie of the Ministry of the Environment, Conservation and Parks (MECP) and PhD student Elisha Persaud. Historic climate and hydrologic data collected from an Integrated Water and Climate Monitoring station on Parkhill Creek has been supplemented by a sampling program for groundwater tracers (e.g. electrical conductivity and 222-Radon) and stable isotopes (18O and 2H), to improve our current understanding of watershed functioning in this agricultural setting. To complement these monitoring activities, a 3D finite element model has also been constructed and calibrated for the entire watershed using HydroGeoSphere. This integrated model gives appropriate consideration to the interconnections between surface and subsurface domains and in doing so, provides a valuable tool for assessing watershed dynamics under historic and simulated future climate conditions. To account for the uncertainty associated with future climate scenarios, watershed behaviour has been examined in response to varied external climate stimulus, including data derived from analogue and synthetic scenarios in addition to general circulation models.

Results from this study may be used to provide insight on meteorological forcing practices for hydrological climate change studies as well as identify potential future watershed response related to groundwater levels, surface flows, and groundwater-surface water interactions. Moreover, study results may be used to support improved water management practices and provide recommendations for data use from long term monitoring networks. Throughout the remainder of this project, analysis of monitoring and modelling components will continue, including an exploration of soft data (e.g. isotopes) incorporation in assessing integrated model performance. This project has been funded and supported by the MECP, NSERC, and the Ontario Graduate Scholarship program with collaboration from the Ausable-Bayfield Conservation Authority (ABCA),and Aquanty Inc.

Common stream channel setting within the Upper Parkhill Watershed. (Photo credit: Ceilidh MacKie)
Parkhill Creek Integrated Water and Climate Monitoring Station. (Photo credit: Ceilidh MacKie)
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