Water is likely on everyone’s minds these days given the recent heavy precipitation events on the east slopes of the Rockies – and right here in the Upper Columbia watershed. The Board of the Lake Windermere Ambassadors would like to express great sympathy to the people in and around Calgary whose homes, lives and property have been affected by severe flooding.
In our watershed, we are seeing high water levels in the lakes and streams and brown, cloudy water in our lake. What’s going on? Water turbidity (cloudiness) is naturally higher this time of year as the spring runoff is at its peak compared to the summer when there is less water coming in to the lake. However, last year, we experienced vastly higher turbidity than recorded during monitoring between 2006-2010. This corresponds with higher June precipitation in 2012 compared to 2006-2010 (Weathernetwork.com). An additional event we had last year, the landslide in Fairmont Hot Springs July 15, 2012, resulted in a plume of sediment observed to Lake Windermere at Rushmere two days later. This year, your neighbours are reporting a plume of sediment as far downstream as Tretheway Beach. This is the case because turbid waters are pouring out of the mountains, causing this higher sediment load. Last Friday, Ambassadors staff observed sediment-filled water flowing out of Dutch Creek and Toby Creek, also muddying the surrounding lakes and wetlands.
Striking as this is, we are not experiencing as extreme of conditions as other places in our region. The Columbia Wetlands, filling with water edge to edge, are providing us with a flood control service. If the wetlands above our lake were cut off from the main channel of the Columbia River, we would likely be seeing much more extreme flooding conditions in our lakeside communities.