The heat of last summer left us all feeling a little thirsty, including Lake Windermere. Just last year, lake levels dropped at the highest rate since the Lake Windermere Ambassadors began monitoring the watershed in 2010. Monthly averages show that 2017 had the most dramatic rate of lake level decline between June and September, at 40% (compared to 20% in prior years).
We wouldn’t know this without monitoring the lake and the creeks that are connected to it. One of the most important ways to get ahead of water scarcity (when water flow doesn’t meet human and environmental needs) is to know the current state of our waters and to manage our consumption wisely to ensure there’s enough when we need it.
Water monitoring programs like Lake Windermere’s are critical to a secure water future. In an era of climate change, B.C. needs to know how it will monitor, enforce and allocate scarce water supplies. Climate change is affecting every community in the province, exacerbating drought, flooding, hot and dry summers, risk of wildfires — and all of it is connected to the flow of water, from snowmelt, to rainfall, to groundwater.
We are lucky there is local support for water monitoring in the Columbia Valley, which is not the case for many other areas in B.C. The problem is, there’s still a knowledge gap. Gathering the science we need to make better decisions about water resources has to be a higher priority at all levels of government and community, with a stronger strategy to fund and coordinate water monitoring efforts throughout B.C. at the provincial scale (of which community-based monitoring programs are a big part, and getting bigger). Such a strategy would empower our communities to have a greater voice, and support the water flows our economies rely on.
As the saying goes, “you can’t manage what you don’t measure”. Changing lake levels in Lake Windermere are a potential warning sign for us all to pay attention to. What will we do locally to adapt and prevent scarcity in our watershed?
Katie Watt, LWA Youth Representative
Fairmont Hot Springs