Keeping lakes clean
By Jenn Watt
Aug. 30, 2016
Without thoughtful, planned, constant action, it’s highly likely the health of our lakes would degrade rapidly. Given the population pressures on relatively small water bodies throughout the Highlands, it is only through intentional action that clean water is preserved.
That may seem obvious, but keeping fresh, clean water and healthy wildlife and vegetation truly comes down to individual choices more so here than in most places.
Our lakes are surrounded by private properties. And while there are regulations on what you’re not allowed to release into the water or build on your shoreline, many of the decisions made by lakefront property owners every day impact the water that is shared by the rest of the community.
Getting everyone on the same page isn’t easy, but property owners associations have been steadily working on it with encouraging results.
Last week, I was able to meet with some of the volunteers involved in the Love Your Lake program, a Canadian Wildlife Federation and Watersheds Canada initiative that has been wholeheartedly embraced by the Coalition of Haliburton Property Owners Associations (CHA). Love Your Lakes puts trained evaluators in boats throughout the summer evaluating natural shorelines and preparing private reports accessible only to the property owners. General data without specifics is given to the lake associations.
The intention of the program is to identify changes that can be made that will improve the lake water quality and create more vegetation to shelter animals and fish. Spearheaded by CHA with plenty of backing from various funders and more than 100 volunteers, Love Your Lakes has evaluated nearly 4,700 properties on 28 lakes this summer.
Haliburton’s efforts are “the best example in Canada” Trent University associate professor Tom Whillans, who conducts training for the lake evaluators, said last week. “There’s no disputing that.”
But in order for the program to be effective, individual property owners need to adopt the recommendations.
Marie Roy, a Kennisis Lake cottager, said that the program appealed to her because it gently educated. In other words: no one is forcing change on anyone else. Best practices are presented with the hope that behaviour will change.
We are lucky in Haliburton County that none of our lakes has been identified as being in dire straits, but you don’t have to look far to see how bad it could get.
Algal blooms from too much phosphorus have plagued Lake Erie for years, endangering animal life and the drinking water supply. Toxic blue-green algae has been strongly suspected by the local health unit on Three Mile Lake in Muskoka, causing that organization to tell users not use the water for swimming or drinking. Fish caught in Three Mile shouldn’t be eaten, they said. (If present, even boiling the water would not eliminate the toxins.)
Blue green algae is fed by excess nutrients, which often come from human sources such as septic systems, stormwater runoff and agricultural land.
Those lakes are a cautionary tale as the Highlands becomes more populated. Programs such as Love Your Lake can help, but only if the advice is heeded. Small actions can and do make a big impact on our local environment. Re-vegetate your property where you can, maintain your septic system and keep things natural.
Check out loveyourlake.ca or www.cohpoa.org to find out more.