North Saskatchewan Watershed Alliance

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Progress on Phase 1 of the Riparian Action Plan


Beginning in 2016, NSWA developed a pilot project to assess the condition of riparian areas on major creeks and lakes in the Modeste sub-watershed. A new evaluation tool was required to evaluate riparian conditions at a watershed-scale. The NSWA commissioned Fiera Biological Consulting Ltd. to develop the new method, which uses satellite imagery to classify riparian intactness.

Riparian intactness was defined as the extent to which natural riparian habitat or shorelines have been altered by human activity. Highly intact shorelines are dominated by natural vegetation, while shorelines classified as very-low intactness are dominated by human-built structures or disturbed vegetation.

From this pilot project, three datasets were generated:

  1. The intactness of riparian areas
  2. Watershed pressures next-to to the riparian area
  3. Opportunities for restoration and conservation activity







An Example of Riparian Intactness in the Modeste Subwatershed

The pilot project in the Modeste subwatershed proved to be a success! NSWA expanded it to other subwatersheds, beginning with the nearby Strawberry and Sturgeon subwatershed and then to the Beaverhills, White Earth, Vermilion, Frog and Monnery sub-watersheds which we completed in 2021. After completing these projects, over 17,300 km of shoreline are now assessed in the NSR.

The results show that approximately 46% of riparian areas are rated as High Intactness.

NSWA is happy to report that other Watershed Planning and Advisory Councils and Non-Governmental Organizations have adopted similar projects. There are now riparian intactness projects in the watersheds of Battle River, Athabasca River, Beaver River, Red Deer River, Lesser Slave Lake and the South Saskatchewan! As of December 2021, it is estimated that over 40,000 kilometers of shoreline have been assessed using this new method.




  1. Riparian Assessments for the Pilot Areas: Modeste (2018); Sturgeon (2018) Strawberry (2018)
  2. Riparian Assessments for the Expanded Areas: Riparian Area Assessment of the North Saskatchewan and Battle River Watersheds (2021)
  3. Methods and Validation Report by the Government of Alberta: Riparian Assessment Validation for North Saskatchewan Region Lakes (2019)
  4. Government of Alberta’s Open Data Source – North Saskatchewan and Battle River Watershed Land Cover Dataset (2021)
  5. Government of Alberta’s Open Data Source – North Saskatchewan and Battle River Riparian Area Assessment Dataset 
  6. NSWA Watershed Wednesday Speaker Series – Riparian Health Action Plan Presentation April 28, 2021 


Funding Acknowledgements:

Funding for the NSWA’s projects was provided through the Alberta Government’s Watershed Resiliency and Restoration Program, as well as the Canadian Agricultural Partnership.