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Watershed Research


Research projects in watersheds play an important role in developing practices that help conserve our natural environment. Surrey takes part in watershed research that ensures watercourse health by mapping sensitive aquatic and terrestrial habitats and mapping insects that live at the bottom of waterbodies.

Benthic Invertebrates (Stream Bugs)

Benthic invertebrates are tiny organisms found living on the bottom of water bodies. Over 95% of all animal species are classed as invertebrates - or animals without backbones. Some examples are flies, bugs, worms, and crayfish.

Since 1998, the City has completed regular benthic invertebrate sampling in the spring and fall of each year on many local Surrey streams. The program started with 12 sites spread throughout creeks and rivers in Surrey. We now collect data at 40 monitoring locations across the city as shown on our sampling site map. This expansion of the sampling program gives us access to information from the vast majority of Surrey's creeks and streams.

Benthic Invertebrates Show Stream Health

Benthic invertebrate sampling helps determine the overall stream health, and helps monitor the changes in health of the stream from year to year. These changes can be due to natural or human induced changes in the watershed. The type of benthic invertebrates found at a site indicates if the water quality is good or poor.

These organisms are good indicators of stream health because they:

  • live in the water for all or most of their life cycle
  • stay in areas suitable for their survival
  • differ in their tolerance to types/amounts of pollution, stream flow changes and changes in background water quality
  • often live for more than 1 year, allowing trends in population and diversity overtime to be discovered

If we examine the presence or absence of these organisms at any particular sampling event we're able to determine the health of the upstream watershed and natural or human induced impacts that have occurred. Furthermore, the presence of benthic invertebrates directly impacts the local fish population. Check out the Salmon Marshal Programs for more information on how to make a change in your local watershed.

Contact the Engineering Department, Environment Section at 604-591-4321 for details or data from Surrey's benthic invertebrate studies.

Sensitive Habitat Inventory Mapping (SHIM)

Sensitive Habitat Inventory Mapping, or SHIM, is an ecosystem-based mapping technique that focuses on the conservation and preservation of aquatic habitats and their riparian areas.

The SHIM process maps watercourses with a Global Positioning System (GPS) unit, and marks the location of notable features such as culverts, obstructions, wetlands, vegetation, erosion points, and fish sightings.

Benefits of SHIM

The benefits of SHIM include identifying sensitive aquatic and terrestrial habitats, locating watercourses and wetlands, and gaining information on riparian habitat, riffle pool areas, erosion zones, water quality, fish presence and vegetation.

The SHIM GPS information can also be used to compare the mapped location of creeks against the true location, which is useful for inventory and tracking purposes. Additionally, SHIM plays an important role in Surrey’s Watercourse Classification Map that classifies streams based on their value as fish habitat for salmon and trout.

Surrey's Completed SHIM Studies

To date, the City of Surrey has completed SHIM studies in the following watersheds:

  • Port Kells, Anniedale & Tynehead - 2014
  • Chantrell Creek/Elgin Creek/Anderson Creek/Barbara Creek - 2012
  • North Clayton Watersheds (Latimer Creek and outlying minor upland creeks) - 2011
  • Northwest Cloverdale, McLellan & Clayton - 2010
  • Patullo, Old Yale, Manson & Armstrong Creek - 2009
  • Lower Bear Creek - 2008
  • Upper Bear Creek - 2007
  • Hyland Creek
  • Upper Serpentine River - 2005
  • Little Campbell River - 2002

A map of the locations studied is also available. The data from these studies is available on COSMOS or by contacting the engineering Department, Environment Section at 604-592-6936.

For more information and examples of SHIM work, visit the Community Mapping Network, a site that shares information about natural resources to help communities with resource planning.

For more information about water quality in Surrey, see our Streams & Water Quality page.