Keri Malanchuk, 2019 summer student for the Lake Windermere Ambassadors, performing a titration. Submitted photo

Just what are we testing for in these waters?

Watershed Wanderings on what is being looked at in the local waters

By Shannon McGinty, program coordinator, and Keri Malanchuk, summer student

Lake Windermere Ambassadors

The Lake Windermere Ambassadors have started our annual Water Monitoring Program and will be out on the lake and creeks performing a variety of tests over the next few months. Our sampling program has run for almost 10 years now – but do you know what we are looking for?

We have three locations on the lake to test for temperature, pH, conductivity, dissolved oxygen, depth, turbidity and monthly nutrient tests. Additionally, Interior Health supports the Ambassadors in testing for E.coli at Kinsmen Beach, James Chabot Provincial Park, and Windermere Beach. Long term monitoring is one of the best tools environmental scientists have in their tool box. Weekly monitoring can give us insight into the effects of short-term disruptive events, such as flooding or a sewage line break, as well as long-term impacts on ecosystem health, due to climate change or human activities. Lake Windermere is part of a much larger water system and due to its high demands for recreation, aquatic life, and public water supply, it is essential to ensure it continues to flow in good health.

One of the most important parameters we measure is the temperature. Water temperature can vary dramatically throughout the year but usually reaches its peak in August. Temperature is vastly important to fish and invertebrates as their body temperature and ability to function are controlled by their environment. If water temperature is outside their required ranges it can cause great physical stress resulting in population decline or relocation, which has major implications on the health of the lake. Warm water temperatures are nice for swimming, but they may also promote the growth of organic material such as algae and bacteria. An increase in decaying organic material can cause taste and odour problems in the lake as well as negatively affecting chlorination. The Ambassadors have installed a continuous temperature logger in the lake to gain greater insight into what temperatures Lake Windermere reaches in the height of the summer.

In addition to weekly monitoring on Lake Windermere, we have initiated a monitoring program on some of the creeks that flow into the lake. On Windermere Creek and Abel Creek we look at the same parameters tested on the lake and water flow. Understanding the flow of water in the creeks has become more important in recent years due to the affects of climate change seen in the Columbia Valley. In 2018 the Ambassadors were fortunate enough to receive funding to install continuous flow loggers on Windermere Creek, Abel Creek, and the outflow of the Columbia River. Data collected with these devices will be compared to historic data collected by decommissioned Ministry of Environment monitoring site to understand the what the current state of Lake Windermere and it’s tributaries are.

The East Kootenay Invasive Species Council (EKISC) support monitoring efforts by conducting monthly tests for Aquatic Invasive Species. Lake Windermere is one of 11 lakes EKISC tests for veligers (invasive mussel larvae) and invasive plants thanks to funding from the Habitat Conservation Trust Foundation. The Ambassadors will supplement this sampling by installing substrate samplers at six different sites on the lake that will be checked monthly for the growth of invasive mussels. Although this monitoring is extremely important, the best way to protect Lake Windermere and the surrounding areas from invasive species is to clean, drain, and dry all water crafts and stop at all inspection sites.

If this sounds exciting to you and you would like to participate in any of our sampling events we would love to have you on board. We sample Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday mornings and always welcome volunteers to join us to become citizen scientists. We are all connected to this watershed in more than one way, whether it be exploring, swimming, boating, or simply taking a sip from the tap, we all have the responsibility to ensure the health of the water for future generations.

Feel free to contribute to this conversation on Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter @LakeAmbassadors.

The Lake Windermere Ambassadors are a not-for-profit organization dedicated to the protection of the economic and ecological health of Lake Windermere in its perpetuity. Get in touch info@lakeambassadors.ca or (250) 341-6898.

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