Lake Windermere continues to show positive health signs

The Lake Windermere Ambassadors recently released their study for 2016 on the health of Lake Windermere with all signs leading up.

The Lake Windermere Ambassadors are proud to boast that for the seventh year in a row, no invasive species were detected within Lake Windermere with water quality results showing a clear, cool and well-oxygenated lake in 2016.

This being the 11th year of lake monitoring since the Lake Windermere Project stated data collection in 2006, the report was able to report that Lake Windermere met objectives for temperature, dissolved oxygen and turbidity throughout the summer. This translated into water that was clear, cool and well oxygenated within historic levels since the Ambassadors started collecting their data.

“This project is an important piece of the puzzle in maintaining a healthy lake,” Megan Peloso, program coordinator for the Lake Windermere Ambassadors, said. “Active monitoring through this project gives us a way to train citizen scientists to understand what a healthy lake looks like, to make scientific information readily accessible, and to observe dynamic changes in the lake, both natural and human-caused.”

Within the Columbia Valley Lake Windermere is relied upon for having water that is clean enough for recreation, be it swimming, fishing or waterskiing, as well as a source of drinking water. The Lake is also home to sixteen species of fish and is used by several hundreds species of resident and migratory birds all of which depend on the water to be in good condition.

From 2006 to 2009, the Lake Windermere Project worked to assess the quality of the lake’s water for wildlife and recreational use before the Ministry of Environment used the data in 2010 to determine water quality objectives for the lake, serving as an existing benchmark for present and future conditions.

Since then, the Ambassadors tested the water quality on a weekly basis every summer and have established 11 years of quality water data. In terms of temperature, Lake Windermere was below the Ministry of Environment threshold with a maximum temperature of 21.8 degrees Celsius this summer, occurring on August 16th at Windermere Creek.

Another factor the Ministry examines, oxygen content, rated at sufficient levels throughout the 2016 sampling season, which was similar to the 2014-15 sampling season.

One of the more important factors, which residents can see is the phosphorus content of the lake. A naturally occurring nutrient in lakes, excess phosphorus can lead to algal blooms, producing the green layer over the lake that people sometimes see. Last year’s sample results indicate phosphorus levels to be at or below the objective of 0.01 milligrams per liter, which is in direct contrast to the last two sampling seasons where phosphorus was found to exceed the objective for Lake Windermere after ice-off. The Ambassadors responded to this occurrence the last two years with recommended increased vigilance in land-use management practices and more robust monitoring for this nutrient.

“Human inputs of phosphorus can take nutrients levels over the top of what is natural in a lake system, and this is a concern we have and why we continue to monitor phosphorus in Lake Windermere,” Peloso said. Lake Windermere’s flushing rate has historically helped to keep nutrients balanced, but a phosphorus overload that could not be absorbed would potentially put the lake at risk.”

Peloso said that there are a number of things people can do to ensure the long-term health of Lake Windermere with the threat of invasive species posing one of the most significant threats to the health of the Lake.

“The good news is we have control of the spread,” she said. “By taking a little extra time to clean, drain and dry water vessels and equipment before entering new waterways, species like Zebra mussels and Eurasian milfoil can be kept out of Lake Windermere for good.”

Besides that, she mentioned the importance of keeping in mind the chemicals when washing your car or watering your lawn. For now, she said she’s happy with the progress of the project and its ability to monitor the lake’s health going forward.

“This project and report offer the basic tools to create greater awareness of what impacts the health of our lake, and guidance on the kinds of human activities and management practices that encourage a high functioning lake ecosystem,” she said. “Data is an important kind of knowledge, but it’s only as powerful as what we do with it.”

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