Reflecting on B.C.'s lake monitoring program for lake appreciation month | iNFOnews | Thompson-Okanagan's News Source

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Reflecting on B.C.'s lake monitoring program for lake appreciation month

Okanagan Lake.
Image Credit: Wikamedia Commons
July 19, 2020 - 10:49 AM

Mike Sokal often takes a moment to admire the clear water of Okanagan Lake whenever he takes another sample for water quality testing.

Fifty years ago, however, parts of the lake were often covered with large algae blooms caused by municipal wastewater treatment plants and community sewer outfalls pumping excess nutrients into the water, according to a provincial press release.

Algae blooms, including cyanobacteria blooms (also known as blue-green algae) are natural occurrences in many lakes throughout B.C. They are not generally considered a threat to the aquatic environment, but they can be a risk to humans, pets and livestock.

The pollution caused a major public outcry, and the wastewater treatment plants were eventually upgraded with new technology. Now, five decades of data illustrates how the lake and others downstream have turned into a success story.

"People have been monitoring the water quality of the lake and studying it for a long time,"  Sokal, a water quality monitoring limnologist and provincial lead for the Long-Term Lake Trends Program for the Ministry of Environment and Climate Change Strategy, said in a province press release.

You can really see with the data how things have improved and where we are at now, which is excellent water quality in an area that's driven by tourism and recreation."

"Lakes are complex ecosystems that are sensitive to a variety of stressors from human development activities and climate change. If we can understand how things change over time, then we can figure out what the mechanisms are for that change. This is one of the main reasons why we continue to monitor lakes around the province."

Operated by the Ministry of Environment and Climate Change Strategy, the BC Lake Monitoring Program has been in place since 2014 to better understand and report changes to the water quality of lakes, which helps determine the best way to manage and protect them.

Fifty-three lakes throughout B.C. are currently being monitored through the program, which outlines comprehensive methods for various types of sampling that look at the physical, chemical and biological components of a lake to determine how healthy it is.

The province said the sampling is done in the spring and late summer, and is also used to study water quality trends and how things are changing over time. Some lakes have been monitored by stewardship groups and a variety of other organizations for decades, providing an abundance of data for scientists to analyze.

July is Lake Appreciation Month.


To contact a reporter for this story, email Kathy Michaels or call 250-718-0428 or email the editor. You can also submit photos, videos or news tips to the newsroom and be entered to win a monthly prize draw.

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