Grassroots Water Monitoring – the Impact of Community

The ad read: “Tour some of the most special areas on the lake by pontoon boat. Travel to the south end, and gain a new perspective of the lake while viewing various waterfowl, wildlife and other species that rely on Lake Windermere. Participants will learn how water quality is monitored on the lake and factors that affect the lake’s health….”

A group of community volunteers, and one paid coordinator have supported water quality monitoring on Lake Windermere for the past 7 years.  The ritual of packing up the sampling equipment and heading down to the boat launch to meet volunteers and municipal staff who kindly provide us with a boat, has become a cherished and familiar activity.

I have built strong, lasting friendships with some of our volunteers. Friendships that only develop after spending hours out on the lake on a warm, sunny day, or friendships that strengthen from an unexpected motor failure that required the rowing effort of two.

When we are on the lake together – there for the purpose of caring for the health of the lake – we find common ground, and learn about what it means to be part of a community.

With a small, 16-foot aluminum boat, and a 10hp motor, my favourite part of the day-long trip has always been the long awaited arrival at the south end of the lake. Because development around Lake Windermere is concentrated at the north end of the lake, few people venture down to the quiet and peaceful inlet of the lake – unless they have arrived at Lake Windermere by kayak or canoe from Columbia Lake, connected upstream by the Columbia Wetlands.

We shut off the motor, drop the anchor, and watch the Bald Eagles hunt. And if we’re lucky, and the turbidity is low, we can watch the fish (we always hope to spot native whitefish, rather than the non-native, and very aggressive bass) feed in the abundance of aquatic plants at the edge of the lake where the Columbia Wetlands start.

After 7 years, we proudly boast: 150+ volunteers, 1,200+ volunteer hours, 77 sampling events, 2 “poor weather rescues”, 1 band-aid (amazingly!), and hundreds of smiles all around.

 

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