The United Nations designated March 22 as World Water Day more than 25 years ago. The theme of this year is Leaving No One Behind. "On this day, we must appreciate the value of safe freshwater, and understand that over 2.1 billion people live without safe water at home. Marginalized groups – women, children, refugees, indigenous peoples, disabled people and many others – are often overlooked, and sometimes face discrimination, as they try to access and manage the safe water they need." 1 This day is really about recognizing the global issues around safe water. Please visit the UN World Water Day site to learn more.
Free from contaminationIn Canada and the United States, our access to safe drinking water is much better than in many parts of the world, and yet there are still many that do not have access to potable water at home and many risks our freshwater supply. The Great Lakes provide drinking water to 40 million people and did you know that the Great Lakes are 1/5 of the world's freshwater supply? With this abundance of freshwater on our doorstep, we have an awesome responsibility to take care of this amazing watershed system. And we need to acknowledge where our society's actions are damaging, and work together to find solutions. One source of contamination that Georgian Bay Forever is working to mitigate is plastics that researchers are finding in our lakes, in the creatures that live in them, and in our tap water and in our dinner plates. Our Divert and Capture project aims to mitigate the amount of microplastics getting into Georgian Bay through education, through shoreline clean-ups, and through a washing machine filter study in Parry Sound. We think the results of this 2-year study could have far-reaching effects in mitigating microplastic pollution beyond the Great Lakes Lean more about our "Divert and Capture" project here.
The fight’s not over
Make a donation! A donation to Georgian Bay Forever, is so appreciated and will go toward the extension of efforts on projects like Divert and Capture,Phragmites eradication, protecting biodiversity through science, and so much more for the water of Georgian Bay.
GBF wants to thank.. This project was undertaken with the financial support of the Government of Canada through the federal Department of Environment and Climate Change. Ce projet a été realisé avec l’appui financier du gouvernement du Canada agissant par l’entremise du ministère fédéral de l’Environnement et du Changement climatique. Further funding and assistance for Divert and Capture: The fight to keep microplastics out of our water, was provided by the RBC Foundation, Patagonia, the Helen McCrea Peacock Foundation, and our many passionate donors. GBF wishes to acknowledge the support of these partners: The Rochman Laboratory at the University of Toronto, the Town of Parry Sound, the Georgian Bay Biosphere Reserve, the Ontario Ministry of the Environment, Conservation and Parks, and our many community volunteers!
Climate change is all around us and certainly in the news with the Climate Change talks in Paris. Climate change is arguably the biggest and most challenging threat to the Great lakes.
Most of the last century’s warmest years in the region all occurred in the last decade. (Read here to understand weather like El Nino vs. climate) The long term climate trend is showing that the region, like the world is heating up more rapidly then anytime in history despite recent short-term cold winter variations.
Water temperatures, water levels and water quality are linked
With this warming trend comes a variety of other effects: warmer water and air temperatures, earlier springs and later falls, less rain and snowfall, more protracted drought-like conditions, flashier storms, longer ice-free periods, and more evaporation and lower water levels.
Another effect that scientists are studying on northern lakes is longer stratification periods…
What is stratification?
Northern lakes have a kind of circulation from high to low depths that is related to winter freezing and heating of the lake. When the top layer of the lake is almost frozen, this layer sinks down. This sinking layer brings oxygen to lower depths and pushes nutrients up (*Cheryl Katz, Yale.edu). As the Lake heats up, the surface breaks into different layers that prevent the oxygen from intermingling into the deeper and cool depths below. This layering from the heating of the water is called stratification. As this process intensifies, it brings these risks:
- Risk to ecosystems: A longer stratification period due to longer summers and less cold winter temperatures, creates a bigger and longer low oxygen area of the lake that is unfit for many living things.
- Risk to water quality: It also increases conditions in which cyanobacteria can thrive, which can lead to toxic harmful algae blooms.
That means that your drinking water is also at risk. In August 2014, half a million Toledo residents lost their drinking water because of toxins in their water system from blue-green algae. Lake Erie experienced its largest ever toxic algae bloom this year which fortunately was pushed off shore away from their municipal water system intakes.
At Georgian Bay Forever, we are working on projects that help monitor and standardize water quality measures, and helping to support research into the causes of algal blooms in order to effectively reduce risk in the future.
Part 2, coming soon, will examine how water levels effect water quality.
Sources used in this post:
*Katz, Cheryl. “On Thin Ice: Big Northern Lakes Are Being Rapidly Transformed.” Yale Environment360. Retrieved December 1st at https://e360.yale.edu/feature/on_thin_ice_big_northern_lakes_are_being_rapidly_transformed/2933/