Climate change growing issue for lake associations
|By Mark Arike - Staff Writer | September 14, 2017
Many lakes in Haliburton County hit record high water levels this spring, and once again the weather played a major role.
The message from the Coalition for Equitable Water Flow (CEWF) is that extreme weather events are now normal and must be considered when it comes to water management.
“Climate change is an issue we have raised and started to raise more frequently now,” said Bruce McClennan, vice-chair of the CEWF, during the organization’s annual communications meeting at the Haliburton fish hatchery on Sept. 9.
It’s an issue they’ve talked about with Parks Canada staff, who manage the Trent-Severn Waterway (TSW), and municipal officials.
“It is a file we’re going to be moving forward with,” he said.
McClennan said the winters are getting wetter and summers drier. But at this point, coming up with a solution isn’t so easy.
“It’s hard to say whether we can really do anything as far as water management strategy is concerned to mitigate any of the problems,” he said. “But the reality is, we don’t really know.”
The CEWF is made up of 33 lake associations, or 93 per cent of the TSW’s reservoir lake storage capacity. One of its main objectives is advocating for a balanced approach to water management for all stakeholders.
They did a review of flood management this year, said McClennan, and are encouraging the TSW to use forecasting tools and “what-if” scenarios. They are looking at what other areas, such as Muskoka, are doing to adapt.
One thing they’ve determined is that lake residents need to be part of the solution.
“When we hear about docks being taken out by rising ice levels and docks being inaccessible because of low water levels … part of it is to change your infrastructure and recognize that it’s going to happen and be prepared for that,” said McClennan.
For the last six years, CEWF has been working on a water levels summary report. It includes input from 25 lake associations in the Haliburton area. They identified lake-specific constraints. For example, there are 400 cottagers on Little Kennisis Lake that have to go under a bridge if they want to get to the marina, explained Chris Riddle, former CEWF co-chair. If the water is too high, their boat will hit the bridge. Constraints can also be environmental.
When it comes to climate change, one of the conclusions they reached is that “water conservation measures are increasingly important.” Due to the frequency of extreme weather events, there is a “need for the evolution of the current water management model.”
In an interview with The Highlander, Jewel Cunningham, director of Ontario waterways for Parks Canada, said it’s too early to tell how the information from the report will be used.
“I’m not in a position yet to say because we haven’t done the fulsome analysis,” said Cunningham.
“We need to be able to model what the ask is and what it will look like in a holistic picture,” she said.
To see the slides from the meeting, visit cewf.ca.
MARK ARIKE is a reporter for The Highlander.