The Biodiversity Monitoring Institute Reports on Alberta

The Alberta Biodiversity Monitoring Institute (ABMI) has released a series of reports that can be used to observe changes in land use and environmental variables.

See these web pages:

Land Cover

Human Footprint Map


Some  of the map products will be useful for monitoring of the Sylvan Lake watershed, however the resolution is too low to monitor changes at the community or individual property scale.

Juno Beach Comes to Sylvan Lake

The shoreline of Sylvan Lake is changing as McMansions replace those old time family summer cottages.

Architectural, environmental and aesthetic standards seem to be flexible. Living by Water principles that help property owners manage water balance and preserve the riparian zone with recommended low impact development and landscaping standards in some cases have apparently been eaten by the family dog.

One Birchcliff SV property owner has prepared for an invasion by sea as this section of re-contoured escarpment and shoreline now resembles Juno Beach in 1944:

Birchcliff vs Juno Beach

Shoreline impairment surveys document the degradation of the naturally protective riparian zone around the perimeter of the lake.

Sylvan Lake Shoreline Impairment Video Surveys

The Sylvan Lake shoreline has been surveyed twice using airborne video cameras to record the impairment of the riparian zone by property owners, once in 2002 for the Alberta Conservation Association and again in 2007 by Alberta SRD together with Fisheries and Oceans. These are valuable records of the cumulative effects of human impact on the natural values that otherwise would be provided by the shoreline environment to protect the lake.

This graphic summarizes the 2002 findings:


The shoreline sections occupied by the Town of Sylvan Lake and Summer Villages or equivalent county communities are typically Moderately or Highly impaired. The SLWSS has recruited property owners along those sections of shoreline to participate in the Living by Water program of Nature Alberta. Regrettably, less than 20% of shoreline occupants have volunteered to have property assessments completed.

These three helicopter survey files should playback on a computer or phone. If that doesn’t work, then download the files and play them locally:

Heli Clip #1. File size 96 MB:

From Jarvis Bay, NW along the north shore to Sunbreaker Cove boat launch ramp.

Heli Clip #2. File size 95 MB:

From Sunbreaker Cove counterclockwise to the Boy Scout camp.

Heli Clip #3. File size 87 MB:

From the Boy Scout camp, SE to the Town of Sylvan Lake beach and Jarvis Bay.

Do-It-Yourself GIS for Your Watershed

Learn how to build a Geographic Information System for your Alberta watershed by using this starter kit from the Sylvan Lake Watershed Stewardship Society.

The process involves downloading free software, acquiring georeferenced data for your land and lake area, and creating maps that will help you to understand and make better decisions about your watershed.


Click on the AltaLIS web page image to expand it/

The linked slideshow and notes explain the GIS software options, where to find and download GIS data and imagery, and some of the useful mapping functions that will help you to survey your environment, answer questions, and to add value to your GIS project.

Geographic Information System for the Sylvan Lake Watershed

The brand new SLWSS Geographic Information System (GIS) demonstrated at CARL  2016 received rave reviews from participants.

Two mapping technologies, QGIS and Google Earth Pro, have been applied to compile and display watershed information for stewardship applications. Here are a few examples:

CARL Hydraulic Units.v2-001

Note: Click on any image to enlarge it

Where is the boundary of the watershed.? It must be there somewhere.

This image shows several different perimeters, one based on an Alberta Hydraulic Unit map that only encloses part of the watershed; A wiggly white one that makes no sense; and a practical red one that accurately follows the high land.

A Google Earth Pro survey tool allow precise identification of changes in the slope of the basin using satellite-based ground elevation data. Regional tributaries shown above in purple flow into and away from Sylvan Lake depending on the topography.

This next colorful map shows a few of the many layers of GIS data acquired from Alberta and national data banks:GIS Data Dump-001

Ground topography; Lake bathymetry; Soil types; Roads; Tributaries; The watershed boundary; Fishery survey stations; Railroads

TSL Divide-001

In the image above, GIS survey tools are overlaid on this Town of Sylvan Lake imagery to locate the 50th Street ridge that determines if stormwater flows east and out of the watershed to the Red Deer River, or west towards Golf Course Creek.

Green map pins at the peak of the ridge also define the area of the town that is inside or outside of the watershed boundary. Stormwater paths determine the direction of flow of any spilled contaminants or urban pollution. Sylvan Lake is exposed to that  west side flow.

Railway Berm Wetlands-001

High resolution Google Earth Pro satellite imagery (one computer pixel can represent one square foot on the ground) and layers of GIS data, enable rapid investigation of land areas that are important for water quality protection.

The land between the railroad berms west of 60th Street is part of the recently annexed West Area five quarter sections that extend from Highway 11 to the lake shore.

Caution will be required to preserve the wetland services of that gully which is also the flow path of the important Golf Course Creek tributary.




Blayne West Leaves Lacombe County for Australia

Blayne West, environmental coordinator for Lacombe County and member of the board of directors of the Sylvan Lake Watershed Stewardship Society, will depart from Canada with her family and return to Australia where summer never ends.

Blayne West Leaves LC 2016-04-08

Blayne helped to develop and manage Lacombe County’s environmental policy and practices and contributed to the Cumulative Effects Management System (CEMS) project of the Sylvan Lake Management Committee (SLMC). She compiled and edited the CEMS Phase 1 report and kept the CEMS Phase 2 report on track as a member of the SLMC’s Technical Advisory Team.

Her community outreach assignments included sitting in the sun on the Sylvan Lake beach promoting watershed awareness on the Red Deer River Watershed Alliance’s Lake Day in 2015.


Sylvan Lake itself thanks Blayne for her watershed leadership and environmental expertise and enthusiasm that allowed her county to become more sensitive and mellow on land use and land development issues that impact water quality and community values.

The Sylvan Lake Watershed Report

The Sylvan Lake Report – Second Edition is our brand new Society handbook on the lake and watershed. See the Table of Contents here.

The report presents critical cumulative information on the state of our watershed. It summarizes historical data on the lake and its watershed land compiled from a variety of public sources and makes it available to support informed decision-making with relevant facts. It presents environmental, social and economic data that illustrate changes in land and lake use over time. It’s a technical report that captures the cumulative effects of our human impact on the watershed.

Our economic analysis finds that the watershed now includes $2.7 billion of private property investment. That value depends on the condition of the lake so preservation and protection of water quality is the top priority of our watershed Society.

Eutrophication Process

Our analysis suggests that increasing urbanization in the watershed according to municipal plans will increase the inventory and value of private property to about $13 billion through the next generation of expansion. Our fundamental concern is that growth on that scale will cause Sylvan Lake to become eutrophic and no longer an idyllic place to live or visit. Our basic assumption is that an eventual population of 70,000 people within the watershed boundary is intuitively undesirable.

Eutrophication Penalty

Active members of the Society receive a free copy of the full Sylvan Lake Watershed Report.

Become an active member of the Sylvan Lake Watershed Stewardship Society by clicking on this secure PayPal link and paying our $20 membership fee.