As mentioned in previous posts, cottage owners and cottage buyers want to know about water quality on lakes in Muskoka. Because water quality has a direct relationship to property value, and algae – particularly algal blooms – directly affect water quality, we all want to know as much as we can .
I just completed and uploaded a video here for the Muskoka Watershed Council YouTube page. The subject is a talk that was presented by Dr. Andrew Paterson of the Dorset Environmental Centre at the Muskoka Stewardship Conference at Nipissing University in Muskoka (Bracebridge). The event’s theme was What Are You Watching?
This highly interesting talk looks at studying lake sediments deposited over hundreds – and even thousands of years. Sediments are archives of environmental change and within them are clues to possible triggers of algae outbreaks.
Dr. Paterson talks about sediment research done in Lake of the Woods in north-western Ontario and the Hudson Bay Lowlands which may help scientist understand occurrences in the lakes of Muskoka. There is discussion on the relationship between water quality and property value for cottagers. The seeming paradox of stable or even declining phosphorous levels – the usual algal bloom suspect- at the same time as blue-green outbreaks are increasing. And of course, the effect of climate change.
Of particular note is the 2005 toxic algal bloom in Three Mile Lake in 2005, where research may indicate the possible triggers of record high temperatures coupled with record low precipitation which occurred in the fall of 2005 in Muskoka.
There is significant evidence that a warming climate is related to the increase in algal blooms. Dr. Paterson suggests that if algae was the music that we hear from a radio: then phosphorous is the volume; other nutrients (particularly nitrogen), light, etc., influence what species are present – are the “tuning”; and climate is the antenna. The presentation concludes that blue-green algae likes it hot!
These north Lake Muskoka clients are doing well so far, but holding their breath. They consider themselves very fortunate.
Many have fared worse, we just finished a conversation with Walker’s Point, Lake Muskoka cottagers whose entire 2 dock system has lifted right off the cribwork. “We are hoping that it sets itself right back in place when the water recedes. At least it’s still there; we’ve seen a few float by.”
In cottage real estate we get asked a lot of questions: Is it weedy?; Eeeew! What’s that stuff?; Why don’t we see crayfish anymore?; My boathouse dock’s underwater – what’s with the water levels this year?; Is my water safe for swimming?; etc. It’s really a lot of fun to answer most of the time!
But here’s a chance to have some of what you want to know, perhaps monitored over time and have it reported on every 4 years!
As many readers of this weblog know, the Muskoka Watershed Council (MWC) is a volunteer based non-profit organization with the mandate to champion watershed health in Muskoka; I am one of those volunteers.
MWC produces a Report Card every four years. The Report Card is a science-based evaluation of the health of the water, land, and wetlands in Muskoka and the municipalities that share Muskoka’s watersheds. Three Watershed Report Cards have been released to date (2004, 2007 & 2010) We are also assisting the Georgian Bay Biosphere Reserve with the development of a State of the Bay Report for Georgian Bay, which will be released this year.
For the next Watershed Report Card due to be released in 2014, we want to hear from you, what you want to know about the health of our watersheds.
Click on the page below to ask your questions or find out more.
The single most important thing you can do to protect the value of your Muskoka cottage waterfront property investment is to protect the water quality of your lake. One of the best ways to help sustain/improve water quality in your lake is to ensure you have a natural shoreline and a buffer zone; an area of natural vegetation running along your shoreline.
The function of the buffer zone is to act as a filter for water flowing to your lake, and studies show that they greatly reduce water pollution. The plants and soil absorb runoff water laden with sediments, nutrients and pollutants harmful to the lake. Turf grass does not do an adequate job filtering water runoff, and is very attractive to geese and other nuisance species.
Native Plants … and lots of them! “Ideally the buffer area is thickly covered with native vegetation. The higher the percentage of the ground that is covered, the better your buffer can work. A landscape made up of native plants is low maintenance. Once established, they can survive without extra watering, and without application of pesticides and fertilizers. Native plants are adapted to deal with local bugs and diseases and can get all the nutrients they need from existing soil.”
On the Living Edge Sarah Kipp, Clive Callaway
You can pre-order native plants from the Muskoka Lakes Association.
“The Annual MLA Seeding Day is scheduled for Saturday May 18, 2013 at the Port Carling Community Centre from 9 am to 12Noon. The emphasis this year will be on Muskoka native species. An order form (with pricing) is available from the MLA website here. We have a lot of seedlings available in some of the most wanted species including White Birch, Balsam Fir, White Spruce, Dogwood and Nannyberry among others.”
Order soon as quantities are limited. Orders can be emailed to email@example.com, faxed to (705) 765-3203 or mailed to Box 298, Port Carling, ON, P0B 1J0
Many years ago my Grandmother won a contest with Toronto radio station CKEY (now long gone). I think you had to write in, and the best story about signs of spring won. The prize was a ride in the radio station’s traffic helicopter during a weekday rush hour. Grannie’s story was something about the pussy willows growing up right out of the snow in front of the Sundial restaurant on the way up to Muskoka (also long gone). Anyway, she gave me the helicopter ride – that was cool!!!
Whether: “is the ice-out”, other signs of spring, habits of wildlife or indicators of a healthy lake, we are often asked about key things cottagers need to know – or go by, and we are happy to help!
But here’s an opportunity to get all the scoops on what to look for: plan to attend the Muskoka Stewardship Conference, put on by the Muskoka Watershed Council. This conference is titled What Are You Watching?
Planned, are talks on algae (identification and monitoring), loon surveying, water quality, landscaping for wildlife, NatureWatch programs and more. There’s even the opportunity to join naturalist Al Sinclair on an outdoor birdwatching session before the talks begin.
Taking place at Nipissing University in Bracebridge, the whole day is only $30 and includes lunch. Register, and get more info here.
I posted a few videos today. One is the 1st of a Muskoka Moments collection.
The idea of Muskoka Moments is to show people and places in Muskoka, but more importantly, to try to show the connection between the two.
Our first video Backyard Swamp, Bracebridge, is a perfect example to lead off. The star of the video, shows off his knowledge of the natural world around him and his excellent backyard! The video was created by a newbie to Final Cut Pro -nice work!
If anyone has a 1 or 2 minute video (or aspires to shoot some) that shows the connection between people and our beautiful environment here in Muskoka, let me know.
As always, there were a lot of questions at the end of the talk and because we ran out of time, more questions one-on-one after the meeting. It thought it might be helpful to repeat them here as sort of an FAQ about water quality and cottage waterfront living. But after typing out a few Q&As, I thought I should send you to a better source.
We have some great events in Muskoka each year. Among them are some really well attended and managed triathlons.
Chris is entered in three: Gravenhurst, Bala and Bracebridge. We were out the other night, Chris doing the hard work, while I kept the sailboat alongside. You might recognize the route: west between Pine Island and the mainland cottages near Touchstone.
Eric McIntyre, of the Eastern Georgian Bay Stewardship Council discusses spiking water flow downstream from Bala Falls, its devastating implications to Walleye reproduction and the current status of the agreement between the Ministry of Natural Resources and Ontario Power Generation.