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 by the soil 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”

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.

So, what do we know about those 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:

Temperature

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

Precipitation

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?”

Three Decades of Sylvan Lake Water Quality Data

Alberta Environment and Parks archives historical water quality data for Sylvan Lake.

Click on this link for a pdf file of the composition of the lake water downloaded in October 2017.

Water Quality Data-Sylvan Lake- 2017-10

The N-P-K plant nutrient, chlorophyll, and Secchi disk data track the natural variability of Sylvan Lake.

As Sylvan Lake is a bathtub-like water body, some components like the conserved indicator ions sodium and chloride have become more concentrated over time as surface and groundwater, and fallout from the air, carry soluble substances into the lake, and evaporation removes water during the open water season

The effect of the watershed human population on lake water quality is demonstrated by the increasing concentrations of some ions that are introduced from diffuse contaminant sources such a winter road salting. As expected, the lab-measured specific conductance has increased slowly as the salinity of the lake has risen.

Sampling campaigns completed during the last two decades have been facilitated by Sylvan Lake Watershed Stewardship Society volunteers in partnership with the Alberta Lake Management Society field technicians. Partial funding in recent years was provided by the Sylvan Lake Management Committee, the RDRWA and Alberta Environment and Parks. The total cost of a May-to-October 5-day campaign is close to $10,000. Water quality monitoring is not free.

Human noise pollution is disrupting parks and wild places

Quiet-Sign-S-4619

This article by Rachel Buxton, Postdoctoral Research Fellow, Colorado State University, is reprinted with permission from the website “The Conversation”. Click on this link for the original article:

https://theconversation.com/human-noise-pollution-is-disrupting-parks-and-wild-places-78074

As transportation networks expand and urban areas grow, noise from sources such as vehicle engines is spreading into remote places. Human-caused noise has consequences for wildlife, entire ecosystems and people. It reduces the ability to hear natural sounds, which can mean the difference between life and death for many animals, and degrade the calming effect that we feel when we spend time in wild places.

Protected areas in the United States, such as national parks and wildlife refuges, provide places for respite and recreation, and are essential for natural resource conservation. To understand how noise may be affecting these places, we need to measure all sounds and determine what fraction come from human activities.

In a recent study, our team used millions of hours of acoustic recordings and sophisticated models to measure human-caused noise in protected areas. We found that noise pollution doubled sound energy in many U.S. protected areas, and that noise was encroaching into the furthest reaches of remote areas.

Our approach can help protected area managers enhance recreation opportunities for visitors to enjoy natural sounds and protect sensitive species. These acoustic resources are important for our physical and emotional well-being, and are beautiful. Like outstanding scenery, pristine soundscapes where people can escape the clamor of everyday life deserve protection.

News from the Alberta Recreational Lakes Forum 2017

Alberta Environment and Parks organized this year’s forum at Lake Isle west of Edmonton.

Several forum documents and presentations are filed in this online SLWSS folder.

The SLWSS did not attend this year’s forum as the need for input from community stewardship groups has declined. We did provide this report on our 2016 activities and projects:

SLWSS REPORT FOR THE ALBERTA RECREATIONAL LAKES (ARL) FORUM 2017

State of the Watershed 2016

Our comprehensive report “The Sylvan Lake Watershed-Second Edition” documented changes in the key indicators that affect the state of the watershed. Data on Environmental, Social and Economic Cumulative Effects variables were compiled for time periods of one or more decades and presented a picture of a relatively stable environment.

Water Quality Monitoring 2016

Preliminary analytical data indicate that in a year with little spring runoff the nitrogen and phosphorus nutrient concentrations have been lower than the long-term average. The lake water clarity remained very high with Secchi disk depth measurements typically greater than 5 metres. Photo albums of the lake sampling expeditions were posted on our SLWSS News blog site.

Nature Alberta’s Living by Water Program

The Society has promoted the Nature Alberta Living by Water program for several years and enabled more than 80 property owners to benefit from Home Assessments. Response to L by W has declined and we awarded a SLWSS yard sign to just a single property owner in 2016.

Government Affairs in 2016

The Society presented a statement on the potential impact of the West Area structure plan at a public hearing of the Town of Sylvan Lake with regard to transport of silt from construction sites through Marina Bay into Sylvan Lake in Golf Course Creek runoff. We recorded several cases of increased turbidity in stormwater runoff.

Groundwater Research

We assisted a University of Calgary geophysics survey team led by Profs. Lauer and Bentley to collect groundwater aquifer data at the west end of Sylvan Lake in October.

Quiet Enjoyment Initiative

The QEI subcommittee chaired by Kent Lyle continued its efforts to have local municipal bylaws adopted to control the sources of noise on the lake. An education and boat launch site signage project was developed at the request of the SLMC. Subsequent support by the municipal members of the SLMC was mixed and disappointing to the hard-working sub-committee. The QEI message resonated with and received considerable major and local media interest in its efforts to promote respect for others. An expanded QEI subcommittee report is posted here.

Community Outreach

Our ceramic tile for the new lighthouse is mounted on the structure with inscription: “Sylvan Lake Watershed Stewardship Society: Protecting the lake’s natural assets and values through vigilance and science”.