Extreme Water Levels: What’s Happening? What’s New?

Water Levels Series

In Fall 2021, Georgian Bay Forever (GBF) and the Georgian Bay Association(GBA) hosted a webinar series: Extreme Water Levels: Impacts and Strategies. This series was a collection of webinars aimed at answering questions, providing strategies to adapt your property and your budget, and raising awareness about the extremes and variabilities that will impact the ecosystem and your family's enjoyment of your favourite place on the Bay.

There were 3 webinars. This page addresses the FIRST webinar.

To see page summaries of the past 2 webinars - look to these links:
Shorelines, Docks and Shoreline Structures (Nov.13, 2021) can be found here.
Septic Systems and Potable Water Vulnerabilities, Insurance & Planning, Coastal Infrastructure (Dec. 4, 2021) can be found here.
Water Levels COnfusion Georgian Bay
Speaker logos First Webinar
Speakers:
Pierre Béland - Canadian Chair & Commissioner, International Joint Commission
Jane Corwin - US Commissioner & Chair, International Joint Commission
Mark Fisher – Chief Executive Officer, Council of the Great Lakes Region
Julie Cayley – Executive Director, Severn Sound Environmental Association
Aisha Chiandet – Water Scientist, Severn Sound Environmental Association
With Remarks by:
Elder Marilyn Capreol, Anishinaabe from Shawanaga First Nation - Founding member of the Conservation through Reconciliation Partnership Elder’s Lodge
There were 3 webinars. This page addresses the FIRST webinar.

To see page summaries of the past 2 webinars - look to these links:
Shorelines, Docks and Shoreline Structures (Nov.13, 2021) can be found here.
Septic Systems and Potable Water Vulnerabilities, Insurance & Planning, Coastal Infrastructure (Dec. 4, 2021) can be found here.

COMPLETED: Webinar 1: What’s Happening? What’s New?

Sat. Oct. 23, from 10 am to 12 pm.

The first webinar focused on:

    1. What's coming? Climate change impacts. Update on water levels, forecasts and impacts.
    2. A report and update on "The Action Plan to Protect the Great Lakes" (Action Plan 2030)".
    3. Impacts to wetlands, flora and fauna. How adaptable are they?

Slides can be found here.
Video. Watch the 2 hour webinar here.

Top 6 Major Takeaways for the October 23rd Webinar What’s Happening? What’s New? Of the Extreme Water Levels series:

1) Both precipitation and evaporation are projected to increase under various climate-change scenarios, with future lake levels depending on the balance between the rates of increases. The highs are likely to be higher and the lows lower as we move into an increasingly uncertain future.

2) The Council of the Great Lakes Region released Action Plan 2030 in June 2019. The Action Plan addresses four major challenges facing the Great Lakes region: climate change, beaches and bacteriological contamination, nutrients and algal blooms, and toxics and harmful pollutants.

3) The Council is seeking to leverage federal commitments regarding a strengthened Freshwater Action Plan and the creation of a Canada Water Agency to advance the priorities laid out in Action Plan 2030, including the recommendations it has made to address the four major challenges.

4) Changes to Climate drivers – including temperature (air and water), wind speed, and precipitation – operate at different scales, including basin-wide and local scales. Future projections predict ‘warmer, wetter, wilder’ conditions. Lake impacts include ice (cover and phenology) and algae growth. Bluegreen algae blooms like it hot, so extreme events favour blooms.

5) Additional lake impacts can be seen in wetlands, flora and fauna. While wetlands in Georgian Bay evolved within the long-term water level regime of 6.33 feet of water level fluctuations, increasing sewage discharge (among other factors) will increasingly tax the ability of our coastal wetlands to keep our water clean. Many plant and animal species will be unable to adapt to the effects of even an intermediate scenario for the future climate, with taxonomic groups depending most on water (e.g., molluscs, fishes, amphibians and lichens) being most vulnerable. Additional impacts can be seen in fish (e.g., less ice cover meaning lower viability) and birds (e.g., botulism bacteria being passed through the food chain from algae to invasive mussels to round goby to birds).

6) There is hope, but no one can be complacent. We are IN a climate crisis. Greenhouse gas emissions have changed the chemistry of the atmosphere and have already contributed to changes to Georgian Bay that can’t be reversed. We must not only take individual action, but also urgently support pulling together across all levels of society and government to simultaneously work on severely truncating greenhouse gas emissions so that there can be some future stability in the environment AND also work on individual adaption actions and policies for the current changing conditions. The next 2 webinars in the GBF/GBA series will focus on what you can do to adapt to extremes in water levels.