Pipestone Creek Watershed
The Pipestone Creek Watershed is part of the Prairie Pothole Region, which extends from north-central Iowa to central Alberta. The landscape is characterized by depressional wetlands–or potholes–created by the retreat of glaciers about 12,000 years ago. Mostly seasonal in nature, these are often referred to as
'fill and spill' wetlands. In many years, the wetlands will not fill; spilling and contributing to stream flow only in wetter years. See map.
Pipestone Creek is a low gradient stream draining 3,684 square kilometres of aspen parkland in the south-eastern corner of Saskatchewan. It flows into Manitoba, entering Oak Lake and forms part of the Souris River Basin. Two dams on the creek have formed Pipestone Lake and Moosomin Lake. Moosomin Lake experiences high algal growth and frequently has algal blooms during the open water season. This may be partially attributed to high phosphorus concentrations. High ammonium concentrations and high turbidity have also been reported in the reservoir.
Soils within Pipestone Creek Watershed research sites are dominantly Oxbow Black Chernozems with mostly loam surface textures. The majority of these soils occur on a hummocky, knob-and-kettle-type landscape, with gentle slopes of three to five percent. These are highly productive soils supporting a mixture of perennial cover and cropped land on relatively large fields. According to the Saskatchewan Water Security Agency (WSA), about 90 percent of the watershed’s land use is agricultural, with about 52 percent in annual crop production, and 31 percent under perennial forage and native grasslands.
The Lower Souris region experiences long winters of four to six months. Spring snowmelt is the predominant source of runoff from land into streams. The region receives 450-500 millimetres in annual precipitation, which is one of the highest precipitation rates in southern Saskatchewan.
Local farmers were research partners in this study, providing land and field management in cooperation with the WEBs research team. The research sites were located in three distinct fields, each containing a number of micro-watersheds where beneficial management practice (BMP) test sites and control sites have been established.
Up to forty years of environmental data, collected by several federal agencies, are available for this watershed. Environment Canada operates five hydrologic stations along Pipestone Creek and there are eight meteorological stations in the area. WSA and the Lower Souris Watershed Committee are key partners in the Pipestone Creek WEBs project.
Four BMPs were studied within the Pipestone Creek Watershed as follows:
- In-field winter bale-grazing
- Nutrient management on annual cropland
- Wetland restoration
- The conversion of cropland to perennial forage
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