Quiet Enjoyment Initiative Rejected by the Town of Sylvan Lake

The Sylvan Lake News reported on a decision of the Town of Sylvan Lake council on February 12 to decline a request for funding for the Quiet Enjoyment Initiative (QEI).

The  QEI project of the SLWSS champions the rights of all Sylvan Lake shoreline populations to enjoy the watershed without disturbance by inconsiderate operators of powerboats and snow machines on the lake surface. It is a call for respect of others and a for a community standard that encourages non-intrusive recreational activities. Alberta Environment and Parks has called for respect too.

Our Stewardship Society does not claim to be a regulatory agency. That is the role of others, including local municipalities on land and the RCMP detachment on both the land and water. In that regard, the Sylvan Lake Management Plan 2000 (SLMP) which all the watershed municipalities have adopted and agreed to implement, says this about boating control and noise pollution on Sylvan Lake:

3.2.7 Boating/Lake Use Conflicts

With the development of additional public access to the lake, the municipalities recognize that boating and other uses on the lake may need to be controlled and regulated to ensure the safe use and enjoyment of the water and to protect the natural environment.

Property owners have also called for more action to be taken to reduce noise pollution on the lake.

Policy Directions

  1. The municipalities will work with the RCMP to implement an ongoing education program focused on informing lake residents/users of all aspects of watercraft safety, user proficiency and user rules/regulations. The education program is expected to take the form of newsletters and pamphlets, and should be distributed to lake residents and other lake users.
  2. A boating restrictions plan may have to be considered for the lake. To implement any restrictions, an application would need to be made to Alberta Environment (Natural Resources Service – Fisheries Management Division) for the appropriate boating designations. Such restrictions might include the following:
  • restricted hours of boating operation;
  • locations restricted for boating;
  • speed limit zones; and
  • other issues as deemed necessary.

3. Efforts will be made to improve the marking of the 30 metres (100 feet) water zone adjacent to the shoreline along developed parts of the lake in order to facilitate awareness and enforcement of the 10 km/hr (6 mph) speed limit within these recognized potential user conflict areas.

4. Signs should be posted to identify sensitive fish habitats, particularly in the vicinity of:

  • Sylvan Lake Natural Area;
  • Kuusamo Krest;
  • Third Point to the east limits of the Summer Village of Norglenwold;
  • Summer Village of Birchcliff;
  • Summer Village of Jarvis Bay.

5. Improved marking of swimming areas will be considered as well as other means of reducing user conflicts. Jurisdictions operating the various beaches around the lake will be asked to review such areas and undertake necessary improvements.

6. Each municipality will adopt a by-law restricting the use of municipally-owned land for the launching of boats without proper noise abatement mechanisms and such other by-laws as may be appropriate to eliminate one major source of noise pollution on the lake.

Since that plan was developed two decades ago, power boating technologies, and their consequences for Sylvan Lake, have changed. Powerboat engines required for wake board sports are larger. Sound systems have increased in power. Excessive wave action has increased shoreline erosion and affected protected aquatic areas.

The SLMP and its Sylvan Lake Management Committee (SLMC) have not kept up. Many of the agreed clauses have been ignored by the municipalities, thereby devaluing that agreement. That is why our Society no longer participates in the affairs of the SLMC.

Missing from the TSL council’s debate were the basic facts about the Sylvan Lake shoreline and land likely to be exposed to excessive noise from sources on the lake in summer and winter.

Lake Community Lake Frontage, metres Lake Frontage, percent


Land Area, hectares
Birchcliff 3914 10.7% 94.00
Norglenwold 3530 9.7% 56.00
TSL Waterfront 3325 9.1% 110.00
Jarvis Bay 2431 6.6% 47.00
TSL Public Beach 2020 5.5% N/A
Sunbreaker Cove 2011 5.5% 52.00
Blissful Beach 958 2.6% 9.37
Half Moon Bay 640 1.8% 12.00
Kuusamo Krest 594 1.6% 6.66
Total 53.1% 387.03
Sylvan Lake Shoreline 36566 100.0%

Summer Villages, and other settlements in Red Deer and Lacombe counties, dominate the shoreline. The Town of Sylvan Lake (TSL) and the public beach take up just 9.1 and 5.5 percent respectively of the 36.5 km of lakeshore. Noise emitters near the beachfront will affect people on that public recreational land, particularly on mid-summer days when the TSL beach is densely packed.

This map illustrates the locations of the most probable noise-affected areas of Summer Villages (in green), and the TSL and other communities (in white). We assume that only the TSL northwest of the railroad track that runs through town is likely sensitive to loud lake noise with the rest of the town far enough away to perhaps grumble about it.

Lake-Noise-Affected Zones + SV Area.v2

Sparsely populated rural land is not highlighted in the graphic as noise pollution is unlikely to have an impact on crops and livestock.

The TSL has done its part for lake stewardship by not providing a public boat launch on its shoreline, thereby restricting access and reducing boat density at the southeast end of Sylvan Lake. A benefit for the town is that it does not have to enforce Clause 6 of Section 3.2.7. of the SLMP that is reprinted above. That intervention would certainly aggravate some of the summer flip-flop crowd that arrives in the watershed intent on having recreational fun while drawing attention to itself with a characteristically loud noise-print.

For some Sylvan Lake residents and taxpayers the town’s cost of subsidizing the recreational activities of that minority of visitors exceeds the value of those flip-flop tourists to the town, estimated to be $35.17/person-day according to the Economic Impact of Sylvan Lake Tourism report. In those cases, it would perhaps make more economic and community sense to pay those visitors to stay away. That would reduce the unwelcome, excessive lake noise that should not define the Sylvan Lake experience for tourists.


The Red Deer Advocate has followed the QEI for a few years. Here are three related articles:





Well Water Quality in the Sylvan Lake Watershed

The Alberta Health well water database is now accessible online. It contains records for 71,698 Alberta wells that were submitted for analysis since 2002 by private well owners. Click on this link to reach the homepage of the website. A tutorial is presented to coach viewers on its use.

Following are some screen capture views of the information retrieved with a “Sylvan Lake” search for 300 wells . The left panel displays the statistical distribution of the chemical analyses and the right side map indicates where well clusters are located. Individual wells are color-coded to quickly show the composition of each water quality property. The website explains why clusters of wells are centered in the nearest surveyed section of land.

The following graphics are screen-captured displays that show the statistical distribution of well water properties or ion compositions for this set of 300 wells. The local bar graphs are overlaid on the data for all of Alberta. In general, local groundwater composition is at the low end of the provincial range.

The bottom graphic is an example of the detailed data table that may be viewed by a cursor flyover of any well dot on the online website map.

Total Dissolved Solids










Well Depth

Well Depth

When the database is active, clicking on any well dot will display the complete set of  water chemistry data:

To compare groundwater data with the composition of Sylvan Lake itself, please consult this source of time series data archived by Alberta Environment and Parks based on data of the Alberta Lake Management Society collected during our lake sampling campaigns. As an overview, watershed groundwater contains higher concentrations of the measured constituents than does the lake water.



Report on the RDRWA’s Winter Lake Day Meeting at Gull Lake

Nicole Kimmel from Alberta Agriculture and Forestry reported on the spread of the invasive Flowering Rush aquatic plant that has been observed in water bodies near Sylvan Lake. Additional advice is posted on the department’s website:

Garry Tang and Garth Gosselin with Alberta Health Services reported on their Recreational Water Program. The presentation highlighted the new Alberta Environmental Public Health Information Network which was launched on February 2, 2018. This link http://aephin.alberta.ca  enables public to access information on domestic well water quality, public health, and Cyanobacteria results in the future.

Brad Peter from the Alberta Lake Management Society discussed the 2017 lake report that compares the conditions observed in 32 lakes across the province.

Chris Ullmann of Alberta Agriculture and Forestry reviewed the Canadian Agricultural Partnership and discussed the value of Environmental Farm Plans that apply risk management principles to contain contaminants and excess nutrients and prevent runoff into water bodies from farm and ranch operations.

Norine Ambrose, the long-time Cows and Fish missionary, explained how to deliver unpopular messages by gaining trust of the target audiences with respectful two-way communications and local relevance.

Craig MacLeod of the Gull Lake Watershed Society provided a status report on Gull Lake projects and how the lake community has cooperated to reduced contamination in runoff.

HT Catering from Lacombe made the trip to Gull Lake in clouds of drifting snow worthwhile.



Who is Extracting Sylvan Lake Watershed Groundwater?

The SLWSS monitors groundwater consumption. Much of that well-water withdrawal is eventually exported from the watershed’s surface and underground inventory as community wastewater. It is collected and processed by the Town of Sylvan Lake in its sewage lagoons. To help treated effluent on its way through Cygnet Lake to the Red Deer River, a comparable volume is pumped from Sylvan Lake itself to supplement Outlet Creek flow. In effect, every flush drops the lake level a tiny amount.

The Town of Sylvan Lake is the main licensed user of well water in the watershed. The municipal system annually delivers about 1.5 million cubic metres of water for domestic, business and other purposes. Water wells registered to the Town of Sylvan Lake are shown as yellow dots in this map that was acquired from the Alberta water well database:

Summer Villages, other lakefront settlements, farm and ranch and industrial users outside the TSL rely on groundwater supplies for domestic needs too. Many of the domestic, agricultural and industrial water wells are shown in this map that includes the Sylvan Lake watershed:




The Sylvan Lake Groundwater Situation in Perspective and Pictures

The Sylvan Lake watershed and its supply of groundwater are dependent on a fine balance between incoming and outgoing water. The net amount is absorbed and stored underground in the soil, porous and permeable geological glacial deposits, and local aquifers and becomes available for domestic and agricultural use. The following ERCB/AGS maps included in this post show how the natural system and its regional water balance works.

The Sylvan Lake watershed and the lake occupy a small part of that area and are located about 20 km west of Red Deer. See the lake aligned in a NW direction in this series of maps. Zoom in if you are viewing the images on a phone. Check the legends for the colour-coded values.

Ave Ann Total Precip-Fig4.2-ECC
Central Alberta is relatively dry region and typically receives 500 mm of precipitation annually. The graphic above shows that the foothills to the west receive slightly more rain and snowfall than does the central corridor.
Ave Act EvapoTrans-Fig4.4-ECC
About 60% of the incoming precipitation sublimes or evaporates from snow, ice, wetlands and lake surfaces and by transpiration from crops and forested areas. This maps shows that watershed loses about 300 mm of water by those processes.
Ave Ann Act Runoff-Fig4.7-ECC
The typical annual surface runoff is less than 45 mm.

Continue reading “The Sylvan Lake Groundwater Situation in Perspective and Pictures”

What Happens Under Sylvan Lake Ice in Winter?

In all our monitoring programs we focus on Sylvan Lake water quality , yet the records show that those data don’t change very fast. In comparison, lake water temperature (T) does cycle dramatically as it can vary from near zero Celsius (C) under the ice and 4 C above the sediment in the winter, to as high as 23 C in a very warm summer. Those Ts and their rates of change must have an impact on the chemical and biological process: on the aquatic populations, the food chain, and on the general health of the lake.

Let’s walk through an annual cycle starting in a fall season. First, cold fall and winter weather removes heat from the surface layer. As the density of liquid water increases when it is cooled, the colder, denser, surface water sinks, mixes, and gradually lowers the T of the whole water column. Water reaches a maximum density at 4 degrees C, so the deeper areas of the lake never freeze right to the bottom. Eventually an ice layer forms on the surface and seals the surface of the lake from the atmosphere. The density and T gradients stabilize the water column as this first Alberta Environment graph of T measurements at different depths at the deep-water sampling station shows:

In the January-March period in the listed years between 1984 and 2002 the lake water at the 10 metre depth cooled to between about 1.2 and 3.3 C. Under the ice at 1 m depth the recorded Ts were between 0 and 2 C. Right at the bottom of the lake at the 16 metre depth, Ts reached about 4 C where water reaches its maximum density. At that point, both warmer or colder volumes of water will be more buoyant and will rise, mix, exchange heat, and equilibrate at a new level in the water column. That density-driven mixing makes the lake a dynamic place.

The fall and winter T conditions that caused the lowest vertical T gradient in 1984 and the highest one in 1999 are illustrated in these two graphs acquired from the Alberta Agriculture weather archives:

Temperatures in Fall 1983 and Winter 1984

Temperatures in Fall 1998 and Winter 1999

A simple explanation for the difference between the two lake T profiles is difficult to see however early rapid heat removal in 1984 by the very low November minimum Ts may have been the primary cause. In contrast, the 1998 fall season was relatively warm.

That is quite a difference in refrigeration. Cooling the 420 million cubic metres of Sylvan Lake water by an extra 2 C required removal of 3740 Terajoules of thermal energy!

Continue reading “What Happens Under Sylvan Lake Ice in Winter?”

Is There Evidence for Climate Change in the Sylvan Lake Watershed?

In his book “Landscapes and Cycles” Jim Steele, an authority on the ecosystems of the Sierra Nevada in California, makes a simple and obvious point about climate change: local climate variables, not global ones, drive locally observable climate change. See the Landscapes and Cycles website for case histories and examples of ecological change.

So, what do we know about those local and regional variables and the response of the Sylvan Lake watershed? Here are a few graphics that summarize facts from the official sources of weather and climate records:


Daily mean, maximum and minimum temperatures recorded at the Red Deer Airport are certified by Environment Canada.


Mean Temp 1994-2014

T Max-Min 1994-2014


Rain and snow are recorded as daily precipitation. This graph displays 20 years of accumulated precipitation measured at the Red Deer Airport. The slope is highly linear over the period with seasonal differences causing the annual fluctuations in rate.

Cum Precip 1994-2014

Interpolation of data from the Alberta Agriculture Hespero and other regional weather stations around Sylvan Lake, for six townships in which the watershed is located, shows that the annual rate of precipitation has remained constant since 1961. A climate change impact on precipitation is not significant.

50 Years of Precipitation

Continue reading “Is There Evidence for Climate Change in the Sylvan Lake Watershed?”