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 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.
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.
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.
The Summer Village of Birchcliff has invited public comment on its review of several clauses of its land use bylaw that control the size of structures and impermeable surfaces on private property. The SLWSS provided the following recommendations on the specific and more general aspects of land use regulation on October 13:
The following case history for Lake Erie shows how algal blooms have reduced real estate values and recreation uses. So keep your plant nutrients on shore on your own private property. We don’t need Blue/Green algae in Sylvan Lake:
The value of property that surrounds water bodies can be sensitive to water quality and the condition of other natural assets. For that reason the Sylvan Lake Watershed Stewardship Society (SLWSS) monitors lake water quality, land use changes, and property valuations over time.
The total of all Equalized Assessments in the watershed has leveled out at about $3 billion. That is the property valuation at risk if Sylvan Lake water quality is impaired.
Two population density ratios derived from Alberta Municipal Affairs data are useful reminders of changes in urbanization within the Sylvan Lake watershed. Growth in the number of dwellings per hectare has only been significant in the Town of Sylvan Lake (TSL) and the Summer Village of Jarvis Bay. Little change has occurred in land areas of Lacombe and Red Deer counties.
The TSL has also shown growth in population density that increases the potential diffuse source impact of that urban area on the lake and watershed environment. Note that TSL’s population per hectare exceeds that of the Summer Villages and the two very low density rural counties.
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.