Alberta Phosphorus Watershed Project: 2013 - 2016

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Nutrients in manure and inorganic fertilizers benefit crop production; however, surface runoff can wash valuable crop nutrients into streams and water bodies if nutrients are not managed effectively. Excess nutrients in streams can lead to water quality concerns including excess plant and algae growth, fish die-offs, and odours.

The adoption of beneficial management practices (BMPs) can reduce or minimize nutrient loss from agricultural operations. Some examples of BMPs are:
    • Appropriate rate, timing, and placement of nutrients
    • Setbacks from streams for nutrient application
    • Off-stream watering for livestock
    • Riparian and pasture management
The Project

Alberta Agriculture and Forestry and the Intensive Livestock Working Group have initiated a three-year watershed study to develop and test a phosphorus risk management tool. The Alberta Phosphorus Management Tool provides producers with BMP suggestions to reduce nutrient loss from their farms. The tool is being used to assess the risk of phosphorus loss and prioritize BMPs on environmental effectiveness and cost.

    • To develop and evaluate the Alberta Phosphorus Management Tool
    • To implement as many BMPs as possible in two agricultural watersheds using the risk-based Alberta Phosphorus Management Tool
    • To evaluate the cumulative effects of implemented BMPs on reducing phosphorus losses from two agricultural watersheds over the next 10 years

The project team will work directly with producers to evaluate the Alberta Phosphorus Management Tool on-the-ground in two agricultural watersheds: Acme Creek near Acme and Tindastoll Creek near Penhold. These watersheds were selected based on the diversity of livestock production and watershed characteristics. In addition, two control watersheds were selected where BMPs will not be implemented: Lonepine Creek north of Acme Creek and Threehills Creek southeast of Tindastoll Creek.

The Alberta Phosphorus Management Tool (APMT) is being used to assess the risk of phosphorus loss based on landscape, environmental, and management factors. In consultation with the producers, BMPs are being identified and implemented throughout the watersheds.

The APMT will be evaluated in terms of ease of use and its effectiveness in identifying and addressing risk. Water quality samples from the watersheds are being collected and analyzed on a regular basis throughout the open water season.

Importance of the Project

Other parts of the world have adopted phosphorus management strategies and tools, but many of these are not appropriate for Alberta's cold climate and adverse landscape. The Alberta Phosphorus Management Tool is unique in that it suggests practical methods and strategies to reduce the risk of nutrient loss from farms in the province.

Why will Farmers be Interested in Participating?

This project will help the livestock sector build on the social license for the industry to operate in the future. It will also help focus resources on practices that will result in the greatest water quality improvements.

Project Partners
    • Alberta Agriculture and Forestry
    • Intensive Livestock Working Group
    • Alberta Livestock and Meat Agency
    • Kneehill County
    • Red Deer County
    • Mountain View County
Intensive Livestock Working Group Members
    • Alberta Beef Producers
    • Alberta Cattle Feeders Association
    • Alberta Chicken Producers
    • Alberta Hatching Egg Producers
    • Alberta Milk
    • Alberta Pork
    • Alberta Turkey Producers
    • Egg Farmers of Alberta
For More Information

Nicole Seitz Vermeer
Alberta Agriculture and Forestry
Irrigation and Farm Water Branch
(Toll-free 310-0000)

Ron Axelson
Intensive Livestock Working Group
Office Telephone: 780-672-7475
Cell Phone: 780-340-6253
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For more information about the content of this document, contact Nicole Seitz Vermeer.
This document is maintained by Bonnie Hofer.
This information published to the web on August 21, 2013.
Last Reviewed/Revised on July 4, 2016.