Middle Shuswap and Lumby Water Stewards

Since the spring of 2013 a small group of volunteers has gone out several times a year to take water samples from various sites along Bessette Creek and its tributaries, as well as at a couple of places on the Shuswap River. With funding provided by the Regional District of North Okanagan, the water samples are analyzed in Kelowna for physical aspects, bacteria, and chemicals.

The standard required of water quality depends on the use envisioned for that water; aquatic life needs a different quality than agricultural irrigation does, and water suitable for swimming may not be acceptable for drinking. 

Our number of analytes (subjects of analysis) is large, and each has various standards depending on the water use the standard applies to.

Let’s choose a couple of common uses: by swimmers, and by aquatic life. The most common human or livestock use perhaps is drinking, but drinking any of the water from the sources we sample would not be prudent.

We measure several chemicals and other factors which might cause harm if you immerse yourself (swim) in a watercourse and therefore risk swallowing some of it. Here is a table of some B.C. water quality guidelines, with their upper limits for recreation.


ParameterUpper Limit
Escherichia coli200 / 100ml
Nitrate10.0 mg/L
Nitrite1.0 mg/L
Phosphorous0.01 mg/L

For aquatic life, including fish, to prosper, chemicals should remain below the limits in this table.

Aquatic Life

ParameterUpper Limit
Escherichia coliN/A
Nitrate3.0 mg/L
Nitrite0.18 mg/L
Phosphorous15.0 mg/L

To make things simple, several shortcuts have been taken in stating some of these limits. 

Results for each site we sample at, obtained on August 18, 2020.

Harris Creek (Hwy 6)4890.0190.00.0266
Duteau Creek (Hwy 6)1010.3790.00.0234
Vance Creek (Mabel Lk Rd)
Mid Bessette Creek (Mabel Lk Rd)2240.1420.00.0267
Lower Bessette Creek (Riggins Rd)1090.0880.00.0232

In passing, it should be mentioned that people have been sampling Cherry Creek and their section of the Middle Shuswap since 2008.

The British Columbia provincial government has an excellent web site for tables of standards, and information about what they are based on:


Collection of all sample results by the Middle Shuswap & Lumby Water Stewards: