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”

8 metres of precipitation fell on Sylvan Lake but the level hardly changed over 14 years!

The graphical record of precipitation as recorded by Alberta Agriculture for the two townships that contain the Sylvan Lake watershed, plus a decade of lake level data measured by Environment Canada’s National Hydrological Service, are compiled here.

The surface of the lake received about 8 metres of cumulative precipitation in the period 2000-2016:

90. AB Ag CUM PPTN 2000-2016

Between 2000:

1. ag.05CC003.2000-01-01.2000-12-31.1.1.0.0.0.0.e

and 2014:

16. ag.05CC003.2014-01-01.2014-12-31.1.1.0.0.0.0.e

the maximum summer lake level remained close to 937 metres above sea level.

Where did all that 336 million cubic metres of water go that fell directly onto the 42 square kilometres of lake surface during that 16 years?

That’s not even the whole story. Of the 864 million cubic metres of water that fell on the surrounding 108 square kilometres of watershed land area, about 20-30% of it entered the lake as flow in the tributaries and roadside ditches.

The whole lake contains just 420 cubic metres of water, so a lot of water has come and gone in 16 years. On average, the lake is just 10 metres deep.

The answers to that question about water loss are that a small amount overflowed into Outlet Creek when it used to drain through Cygnet Lake on its way to the Red Deer River and Saskatchewan. Some of it become groundwater by infiltration. Most of it just evaporated. It went away. It didn’t stay around long enough to be sold or taxed.

You can see that natural evaporation process in action if you watch the lake surface carefully. Just concentrate. The lake level charts above show that about 0.25 metre of water disappeared after July 1. That was about 2 millimetres per day!

 

The Biodiversity Monitoring Institute Reports on Alberta

The Alberta Biodiversity Monitoring Institute (ABMI) has released a series of reports that can be used to observe changes in land use and environmental variables.

See these web pages:

Land Cover

Human Footprint Map

Species

Some  of the map products will be useful for monitoring of the Sylvan Lake watershed, however the resolution is too low to monitor changes at the community or individual property scale.

Juno Beach Comes to Sylvan Lake

The shoreline of Sylvan Lake is changing as McMansions replace those old time family summer cottages.

Architectural, environmental and aesthetic standards seem to be flexible. Living by Water principles that help property owners manage water balance and preserve the riparian zone with recommended low impact development and landscaping standards in some cases have apparently been eaten by the family dog.

One Birchcliff SV property owner has prepared for an invasion by sea as this section of re-contoured escarpment and shoreline now resembles Juno Beach in 1944:

Birchcliff vs Juno Beach

Shoreline impairment surveys document the degradation of the naturally protective riparian zone around the perimeter of the lake.

Sylvan Lake Shoreline Impairment Video Surveys

The Sylvan Lake shoreline has been surveyed twice using airborne video cameras to record the impairment of the riparian zone by property owners, once in 2002 for the Alberta Conservation Association and again in 2007 by Alberta SRD together with Fisheries and Oceans. These are valuable records of the cumulative effects of human impact on the natural values that otherwise would be provided by the shoreline environment to protect the lake.

This graphic summarizes the 2002 findings:

sylvan-lake-impaired-shoreline-2002-survey-v2

The shoreline sections occupied by the Town of Sylvan Lake and Summer Villages or equivalent county communities are typically Moderately or Highly impaired. The SLWSS has recruited property owners along those sections of shoreline to participate in the Living by Water program of Nature Alberta. Regrettably, less than 20% of shoreline occupants have volunteered to have property assessments completed.

These three helicopter survey files should playback on a computer or phone. If that doesn’t work, then download the files and play them locally:

Heli Clip #1. File size 96 MB:

From Jarvis Bay, NW along the north shore to Sunbreaker Cove boat launch ramp.

Heli Clip #2. File size 95 MB:

From Sunbreaker Cove counterclockwise to the Boy Scout camp.

Heli Clip #3. File size 87 MB:

From the Boy Scout camp, SE to the Town of Sylvan Lake beach and Jarvis Bay.

Do-It-Yourself GIS for Your Watershed

Learn how to build a Geographic Information System for your Alberta watershed by using this starter kit from the Sylvan Lake Watershed Stewardship Society.

The process involves downloading free software, acquiring georeferenced data for your land and lake area, and creating maps that will help you to understand and make better decisions about your watershed.

AltaLIS

Click on the AltaLIS web page image to expand it/

The linked slideshow and notes explain the GIS software options, where to find and download GIS data and imagery, and some of the useful mapping functions that will help you to survey your environment, answer questions, and to add value to your GIS project.

Geographic Information System for the Sylvan Lake Watershed

The brand new SLWSS Geographic Information System (GIS) demonstrated at CARL  2016 received rave reviews from participants.

Two mapping technologies, QGIS and Google Earth Pro, have been applied to compile and display watershed information for stewardship applications. Here are a few examples:

CARL Hydraulic Units.v2-001

Note: Click on any image to enlarge it

Where is the boundary of the watershed.? It must be there somewhere.

This image shows several different perimeters, one based on an Alberta Hydraulic Unit map that only encloses part of the watershed; A wiggly white one that makes no sense; and a practical red one that accurately follows the high land.

A Google Earth Pro survey tool allow precise identification of changes in the slope of the basin using satellite-based ground elevation data. Regional tributaries shown above in purple flow into and away from Sylvan Lake depending on the topography.

This next colorful map shows a few of the many layers of GIS data acquired from Alberta and national data banks:GIS Data Dump-001

Ground topography; Lake bathymetry; Soil types; Roads; Tributaries; The watershed boundary; Fishery survey stations; Railroads

TSL Divide-001

In the image above, GIS survey tools are overlaid on this Town of Sylvan Lake imagery to locate the 50th Street ridge that determines if stormwater flows east and out of the watershed to the Red Deer River, or west towards Golf Course Creek.

Green map pins at the peak of the ridge also define the area of the town that is inside or outside of the watershed boundary. Stormwater paths determine the direction of flow of any spilled contaminants or urban pollution. Sylvan Lake is exposed to that  west side flow.

Railway Berm Wetlands-001

High resolution Google Earth Pro satellite imagery (one computer pixel can represent one square foot on the ground) and layers of GIS data, enable rapid investigation of land areas that are important for water quality protection.

The land between the railroad berms west of 60th Street is part of the recently annexed West Area five quarter sections that extend from Highway 11 to the lake shore.

Caution will be required to preserve the wetland services of that gully which is also the flow path of the important Golf Course Creek tributary.