Water can help fight climate change: 2020 World Water Day
World Water Day 2020, on 22 March, is about water and climate change – and how the two are inextricably linked. Did you know that water can help fight climate change? Our wetlands can soak up carbon dioxide from the air, our vegetation protects against flooding and erosion, our rainwater can be stored for dry periods, and our wastewater can be reused!
World Water Day, an annual observance by the United Nations, celebrates water and raises awareness of the 2.2 billion people living without access to safe water. The 2020 theme, Water and Climate Change, promotes the messages that:
- We cannot afford to wait. Climate policy makers must put water at the heart of action plans.
- Water can help fight climate change. There are sustainable, affordable and scalable water and sanitation solutions.
- Everyone has a role to play. In our daily lives, there are surprisingly easy steps we can all take to address climate change.
Fighting climate change can open up vast opportunities for the economy in many areas. We should embrace circular production systems and use water much more responsibly. As the global population grows, so does the demand for water, which depletes natural resources and damages the environment in many places.
Solutions include protecting carbon sinks such as oceans and wetlands, adopting climate-smart agricultural techniques, and increasing the safe reuse of wastewater. Water is our most precious resource – we must use it more responsibly. We must balance all of society’s water needs while ensuring the poorest people don’t get left behind.
There is some good data available on the impacts climate change is having on our water resources. For the last 47 years, the IISD Experimental Lakes Area (IISD-ELA) in Northwestern Ontario has been collecting detailed data on climate, stream and lake ecosystems, making their long-term dataset extremely valuable to understanding how climate change has, and will, influence our precious freshwater resources.
The researchers at IISD-ELA have found out some very interesting, but alarming, facts: our air is getting warmer, our lakes are getting darker and less icy, and fish have become smaller. What about in Muskoka?
Muskoka Watershed Council, using long-term data from the District of Muskoka’s Lake System Health Monitoring Program and from scientists at the Dorset Environmental Science Centre, reported in the 2018 Muskoka Watershed Report Card that lakes in Muskoka experience, on average, 19 days less of ice cover than they did in 1975, and that summer surface water temperatures have increased 0.5 °C on average. Will we also see lakes getting darker and fish getting smaller here in Muskoka, similar to what has been reported for the IISD-ELA lakes?
This World Water Day, take a moment to learn about some of the impacts climate change is having on our water resources and how water can help us fight climate change. Learn about the IISD-ELA findings at https://www.iisd.org/sites/default/files/publications/iisd-ela-climate-change-brochure.pdf, check out the climate change indicator in the 2018 Muskoka Watershed Report Card at https://www.muskokawatershed.org/reportcard-story-map/, and visit the World Water Day website at www.worldwaterday.org.
Watershed Council Makes a Case for Integrated Watershed Management
Muskoka Watershed Council (MWC) approved a paper at its January meeting outlining the need for integrated watershed management (IWM) in Muskoka. The paper formed the basis for MWC’s submission to the Muskoka Watershed Advisory Group and contains a number of recommendations for how to implement IWM in Muskoka.
With our extensive natural areas and numerous lakes and waterways, Muskoka is rich in natural capital, which is vital to our economy and the quality of our lives. Effective management can sustain that capital to the maximum extent possible while permitting the development required to house our population and sustain our economy.
This natural capital – the soils, forests, grasslands, wetlands – also plays a role in determining the flow of water into streams, rivers and lakes. However, we lack a detailed understanding of how natural capital affects flow from place to place across our watershed, and how climate change may modify these regulating processes.
MWC recommends that an advanced form of integrated watershed management (IWM) be implemented in Muskoka, ultimately to drive all aspects of environmental management and land-use planning. Recognizing the strong dependence of the economy and community on a high quality environment, IWM can be designed to meet the needs and goals of every business owner, wage earner, property owner and visitor in the watershed. By integrating socio-economic criteria with environmental management, IWM is intended to create more sustainable communities.
While there are significant challenges in implementing IWM, it is the most appropriate way to move environmental management and land-use planning forward in Muskoka. Nature, particularly in a changing climate, is making the old ways of managing it ineffective. To support the introduction of IWM in Muskoka, MWC has proposed convening stakeholders in a Roundtable, and starting the process of developing the rules and building the collaboration necessary for successful Integrated Watershed Management.
Download your copy of “The Case for Integrated Watershed Management in Muskoka” on the MWC website at www.muskokawatershed.org.
Donations to protect watershed health keep GMPE founder’s legacy alive
Muskoka Watershed Council (MWC) received a generous donation at its monthly meeting on February 28th. Pat Schofield and Dave Near, organizers of the Great Muskoka Paddling Experience (GMPE), presented a $2,000 cheque to MWC’s new Chair, Geoff Ross. In total, $3,000 was donated to watershed protection organizations in Muskoka from the GMPE event held last October.
The Great Muskoka Paddling Experience is an annual paddling event held on the Thanksgiving weekend in Bracebridge for canoes, kayaks and stand-up paddleboards for participants of all ages and skill levels. The 2019 event was held in memory of GMPE’s founder, Sandy Schofield, an avid paddler who passed away last spring. Despite a late start to the organizing, the 2019 event was a success with 173 registered paddlers from across Ontario and beyond!
The GMPE donation will go to support MWC’s Algae Monitoring Program, which was initiated in 2019 with a pilot program on four Muskoka area lakes that recently experienced blue-green algal blooms. According to Ross, “the pilot program will continue in 2020 and, depending on the results and funding, will be expanded to additional lakes across Muskoka in 2021.” The Algae Monitoring Program uses volunteers to gather information on the distribution, abundance and seasonal cycles of algae so that, over time, it may be possible to identify conditions favoring algae, detect trends in abundance, and provide management advice.
The Great Muskoka Paddling Experience was voted as the 2019 ‘Race of the Year’ by the Ontario Marathon Canoe Kayak Racing Association, the sanctioning body for the event, and will be returning in 2020 on Saturday, October 10th. Will we see you there?
Learn more about the Great Muskoka Paddling Experience at www.muskokapaddlingexperience.com.