EARLY WATER DYNAMICS WITHIN A WETLAND COMPLEX CONSTRUCTED ON TAILINGS AT AN OIL-SAND MINE
Instrumentation and monitoring activities include: over 200 piezometers and wells with manual and continuous measurements of water level, electrical conductivity and temperature, plus water sampling; over 200 access tubes and automated sensors for measurement of soil-moisture content distributions; 32 automated tensiometers; bi-weekly mapping of saturated and flooded areas; two eddy covariance stations to measure evapotranspiration rates; three full meteorological stations and other hydrometeorological instrumentation. Wetland and forestland vegetation are regularly surveyed and inventoried. We are approaching the end of the third year of operation (i.e., since reclamation material was placed, planted and instrumented). Shallow groundwater and surface water in the primary fen area are highly responsive to precipitation events and water management activities. Deeper groundwater levels and water tables below the hummocks are gradually rising as the system appears to wet-up with fresh water. Isolated areas intended to become perched fens show variable degrees of water retention capability. There is some evidence that small amounts of tailings water enter from adjacent deposits, from either below or laterally; however, detrimental effects on vegetation are neither evident nor anticipated.