Project Spotlight: Harper Creek Permeability Study

Host organization: Peterborough GreenUP
Student: Emily Amon (Environmental Sciences & Studies)

The project: Harper Creek is an ecologically sensitive area in the south end of Peterborough, and the environmental stress it faces is likely to increase as development projects like the nearby Shorelines Casino go ahead. One issue associated with this new development is the increased rainwater runoff the creek will have to accommodate as more land gets built on or paved over.

Emily’s project studied this issue by focusing on water runoff patterns in the Harper Creek subwatershed. She integrated numerous data sets to map the watershed, taking into account parameters like elevation, slope, and soil permeability to determine what areas of the watershed most needed to be protected from development, or have rain gardens installed to increase permeability and reduce runoff.

Research questions: What areas of the Harper Creek subwatershed most need soil permeability projects (rain gardens) installed in order to reduce the levels of stormwater entering Harper Creek?

Methods: Emily analyzed various GIS datasets describing the Harper Creek subwatershed. She obtained these datasets from Trent’s mapping data centre, the South Central Ontario Orthographic Project, the City of Peterborough’s mapping department, and the Otonabee Region Conservation Authority.

Harper Creek Stormwater Hot Spots

Harper Creek Priority Stormwater Management Zones

By integrating all of this data, Emily was able to determine which locations in the Harper Creek subwatershed were most likely to deliver large amounts of stormwater runoff into the creek. She then recommended installing rain gardens in these locations to minimize the runoff levels and lower flood risk.

Results: Emily’s research identified a number of stormwater hotspots. She also used the data she collected to suggest six locations within the watershed which need permeability projects or other infrastructure to address high levels of stormwater runoff. Her results are captured in the maps on the right, which she created.

Impacts: Emily’s research is timely and important, though it is too early to say what impact it might have on the ecological health of Harper Creek in the long term.

In February 2017 Emily presented to Peterborough City Council on the progress of her research.

In March, Emily’s project won the Academic Achievement in a Community Setting Award at our Celebration of Community Research. Congratulations, Emily!