Watershed Wanderings

By Shannon McGinty

Lake Windermere Ambassadors

If you tuned in last month, you likely read that we are in our last Deep Dive of 2021, Our Shared Home. In September, we focused on benthic macroinvertebrates who reside in our shared home. This month, we will look at the structure of that home and its ability to support aquatic life.

To start with, while we call Lake Windermere a lake, it is not actually a true lake. Lake Windermere, more accurately, is a widening of the Columbia River, with the headwaters downstream to the south in Canal Flats. This unique trait allows for a low water retention rate, contributing to the overall high water quality and oligotrophic nature of Lake Windermere; an oligotrophic lake is one with relatively low productivity due to low nutrient content. Each year the Ambassadors monitor the health of Lake Windermere, just as you inspect your home regularly.  

In 2021 we continued our annual monitoring program, checking Lake Windermere’s vital signs – temperature, depth, dissolved oxygen, pH, turbidity, conductivity, and nutrient levels. We have been running this program since 2010; continued monitoring provides great value to understanding the long-term health of Lake Windermere and emerging concerns. Initial analysis of the 2021 data paints a clear photo of the climatic happenings this year. We see the water levels rise in late May as the spring runoff was fed by high elevation snowmelt. This is followed by increased turbidity in early June as storms and flooding brought more sediment into the lake. Following this, the water temperatures begin to warm in July, reaching a high of 24 °C, which leads to an increase in algae growth visible to the naked eye in the north end of the lake. Numbers on a spreadsheet may not be as attractive as the picturesque landscape of Lake Windermere, but they do tell a compelling tale.

This is just a quick snapshot into our full annual report on Lake Windermere, and its ability to provide a healthy home for aquatic life. 

If you are interested in learning more, join us on Friday, Oct. 22, at James Chabot Provincial Park to Learn About Your Lake. Registration and more information can be found at www.lakeambassadors.ca/learn-about-your-lake 

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

The Lake Windermere Ambassadors would like to thank the Columbia Basin Trust, Columbia Valley Community Foundation, Columbia Valley Local Conservation Fund, Real Estate Foundation, BC Gaming Grants, District of Invermere, Regional District of East Kootenay, BC Hydro, and community donors for supporting our 2021 programming.

Shannon McGinty, Program Coordinator for the Lake Windermere Ambassadors. Email her at [email protected] or call the office (250) 341-6898.