Flipside Kids Learn About Water Quality

This Sylvan Lake News story was published in the April 20 edition:

Children involved in the drop-in programs at the Flipside Youth Centre were taught some things about that big body of water at the north end of town, on April 13.

President Graeme Strathdee and Director-at-Large Susan Samson of the Sylvan Lake Watershed Stewardship Society gave an interactive presentation on the science surrounding the waters of Sylvan Lake.

Both representatives provided various examples of what affects water quality in the lake, as well aswhat procedures are used to test the quality of that water, such as pH testing.

“They talked to kids on how they do testing for farm runoff, and what comes out of rainwater thatends up in the lake,” said Deshon Lennard an FCC Youth Services Coordinator with the Town ofSylvan Lake.

Lennard said that in their presentation, Strathdee and Samson explained all the factors that affectthe lake, from tourist activity to bacteria from garbage. Their presentation also had a hands-onaspect, with children carrying out experiments that tested tap water quality.

“The kids got to do a scaled down version of the larger activities, with one simulating the types ofwater in the lake with cups,” said Lennard. “Each cup represented geographic areas in the lake, andthey used food colouring to differentiate the distinct areas of the lake.”

Lennard said that last Thursday’s session was part of a larger educational segment of the youthcentre’s programming called Power-up Thursday, whereby children engage in educational activities,that “engage them in diverse areas of science and math.”

“The kids were very interested and curious,” said Lennard. “They learned something new, and tooksome pride in learning about the water in the lake, because they’re from here.”

Our Stewardship Science message was built around this slideshow of water quality sampling of Sylvan Lake and Golf Course Creek.

DSC_0123

Can you collect a composite sample of lake water like Breda is doing? Flipside kids can.

Thanks to Sam Macdonald, new SLN reporter just arrived from NS, for the reprinted story.

 

 

Sylvan Lake Boat Launch Access

The Sylvan Lake News has reported on the status of a Town of Sylvan Lake initiative to improve the convenience and reduce the cost of boat launch access at the private Sylvan Lake Marina:

Affordable access to lake remains an ongoing issue

From the stewardship perspective, lake protection is typically is not a top priority for power boaters. Demonstration of a concern for shoreline erosion, impacts on aquatic habitats, and the level of noise pollution is not a prerequisite for acquisition of a Boaters Card.

The Society has contributed an analysis of the inter-municipal lake access report to the Town of Sylvan 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:

sylvan-lake-impaired-shoreline-2002-survey-v2

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.

The Society’s Year-End Report for 2016

xmas-letterhead-2016

December 2016

To: SLWSS Active Members and Friends

Thank you for your interest in the watershed and support for our lake stewardship projects.

This year end message highlights a few of our efforts to achieve our Society goals. See the SLWSS News for more details on any of these topics, or click on the links included here.

Our slogan “Protecting the lakes natural values and assets through vigilance and science” is now cast in stone in the form of a brick mounted on the base of the new lighthouse.

We monitored Sylvan Lake water quality again in partnership with the Alberta Lake Management Society, the Red Deer River Watershed Alliance and the Sylvan Lake Management Committee. We found that the lake is currently depleted in plant nutrients compared to the historical record.

We co-hosted the Central Alberta Recreational Lakes Association (CARL) conference in May in Sylvan Lake and learned about stewardship initiatives of other lake communities.

Our SLWSS demonstration of low cost Geographic Information System (GIS) technology for watershed monitoring was a popular topic.

Cumulative Effects Monitoring has been slowed by a delay on the part of watershed municipalities to share critical current data on indicators that define and affect the state of the watershed.

We presented evidence of Golf Course Creek contamination by entrained runoff from Town of Sylvan Lake construction sites and recommended that the town adopt stricter standards for new developments within the West Area Structure Plan to prevent erosion and siltation.

We assisted a geophysics team from the University of Calgary to collect data on the Paskapoo formation, an important groundwater aquifer in this region of Alberta.

The Quiet Enjoyment Initiative team made progress on outreach and public education by distributing an informative brochure on noise control courtesy and practice. Some Summer Villages contributed to the cost of printing the QEI brochure.

Our overall assessment of the 2016 state of the watershed is that the lake had high water quality through the open water season and remained free of chronic algal blooms. Early season runoff was absent. Nutrient loading of the lake was low. Annual precipitation was close to normal and the lake level remains close to the historic average according to the official record.

On behalf of the Society Board, Merry Christmas,

Graeme Strathdee, President

Click here for a pdf file of this message.

The Atlas of Alberta Lakes is now online

The Atlas, first published as a printed report in 1990, has been digitized and is available here.

Sylvan Lake is part of the South Saskatchewan Region.

Maps and data for some lakes monitored by Alberta Environment and Parks may be found here.

Also refer to the Respect Our Lakes web page

and the AEP Lake Information page.

Be sure to visit the Central Alberta Recreational Lakes Initiative website for additional information, data and references.

 

 

Status Report on Sylvan Lake Water Quality in 2016

This is an interim report on the results of Sylvan Lake  water quality sampling between May and September 2016. Previous posts have illustrated the joint SLWSS-ALMS project in action on the high seas. The teamwork of ALMS lake technician Breda Muldoon, able crew members from the SLWSS, and boat captain Ed Thiessen of Norglenwold allowed us to complete three of the planned five sampling cruises. Two were abandoned because of unsafe weather conditions.

The official LakeWatch report on the Sylvan Lake 2016 campaign will be issued by the Alberta Lake Management Society in mid-2017 according to the standards and schedule of that program.

Meanwhile, some of the raw data analyzed by Maxxam, the certified commercial laboratory in Edmonton, are available for inspection and preliminary interpretation. This table summarizes the constituents in Sylvan Lake water. The list includes naturally occurring cations and anions that are transported from the land into the lake over time in groundwater, precipitation and atmospheric fallout. In addition, the indicator nutrients nitrogen and phosphorus are measured to determine the eutrophic condition of the lake.

We were surprised to discover that the Total Phosphorus (TP) concentrations fell at the low end of the historical range on this histogram of data from three decades of water quality analyses:

wq-histogram-2016

Those TP values in the range 0.010 to 0.015 milligrams per litre (that is, ten to fifteen parts per billion) were well below the eutrophic limit threshold guideline for Sylvan Lake of 0.035 mg/L, or 35 ppb. Note that the historic TP median concentration has been about0.021 milligrams per litre, or 21 ppb. That is the source concentration of phytoplankton fertilizer feed.

We use TP as an indicator or quick index to estimate the potential for phytoplankton growth and appearance of algal blooms that are common at other nutrient-rich Alberta lakes like Pigeon and Pine lakes.

The 2016 data suggested that the food chain in the lake might be adversely affected by too little nutrient content. If single-celled phytoplankton don’t grow, and produce food for zooplankton and the higher members of the food chain then aquatic health of the fish stock can become jeopardized by being placed on a low-calorie diet.

We observed that directly with the simple Secchi disk test for water clarity. Through the sampling period, the disk typically remained visible down to a depth of 5 metres, indicating that there was not much light-scattering suspended material in the water column.

Part of the explanation for the depleted nutrient concentration in 2016 undoubtedly was the absence of significant snowmelt runoff until mid-May. Generally initial runoff carries high concentrations of nutrients into the lake. After plants start growing on the land those nutrients are captured and retained and become less available to reach the lake. Here is the precipitation history for the January-September period using Alberta Agriculture data from the Hespero weather station west of the watershed.

hespero-weather-2016-01-to-09

Intermittent soil-saturating precipitation of >10 mm/day (the tiny blue spikes) tends to activate surface flow into tributaries and creeks that discharge into the lake. The red cumulative precipitation line did not cross the long-term average until September, after which nutrient concentrations do not contribute to concerns about excess cosmetic algal growth.

A customized addition to the 2016 campaign was the collection of water samples from within the top 1 metre and the bottom 1 metre of the lake at its deepest sample station. The purpose was to detect any elevated TP concentration above the sediment from decay of nutrient-rich material previously settled out of the water column. Previous studies of Sylvan Lake have demonstrated that enriched layer. However, our chemical analyses in combination with the relatively constant instrumental measurements with depth of conductivity, temperature and dissolved oxygen suggested that the chance of substantial nutrient mixing was low through the open water period of 2016. That conclusion assumes that conditions at other deep locations above the lake sediment are no worse that what we observed at the reference station.