BC Lake Stewardship and Monitoring Program

Please click HERE for Data Forms

With government funding for environmental programs in decline, there is more reliance on individuals and groups throughout the province to take on a greater role in stewardship activities, environmental monitoring, and water quality management. Collection of lake data by volunteers is extremely important for the protection of lake water quality as it helps establish a strong baseline of data that allows for lake health to be determined, monitored and managed over time. Good water quality is important to aquatic life and wildlife that rely on lakes for food and habitat, and to people, who use lakes for drinking water, fishing, boating, swimming, other recreational uses and aesthetic purposes.

The BCLSS recognizes the importance of volunteers and, through our program, will help individuals and local groups take on a greater role in lake stewardship activities throughout BC.

In the spring of 2003, the BCLSS launched a province-wide program in partnership with the Ministry of Environment (MOE) entitled: The BC Lake Stewardship and Monitoring Program (BCLSMP). The program has been a great success and surpassed many of the deliverables set out in the original program. The BC Ministry of Environment has generously funded the BCLSMP from 2003 to 2013. As well, the Vancouver Foundation has provided a grant for 2006-2007. With this financial assistance the BCLSS has been able to continue to implement and expand the program. Planned expansions to the program include the development of more in-depth training courses as well as an aquatic plant survey program.

Under the BCLSMP, BCLSS staff train volunteers and provide them with equipment and support to facilitate the collection of water quality data and observations from lakes in BC. The objectives of this program are to:

  1. Strengthen the volunteer stewardship sector in British Columbia by increasing the level of awareness of the importance and value of volunteer lake monitoring and environmental stewardship.
  2. Provide LakeKeepers training in nine regions of BC.
  3. Expand BC's participation in the Great North American Secchi Dip-in, to raise awareness of lake monitoring and increase the collection of data.
  4. Monitor and report on 10 new lakes per year, with representation from all of BC's physiographic regions and as many biogeoclimatic zones as possible.
  5. Produce lake-specific reports for 5-10 new lakes per year.

This program is unique in that it gives dedicated volunteers the knowledge and tools to become stewards of their favourite lake, which, in turn, means healthier, better-managed lakes in British Columbia. It also includes community-based involvement and extensive collaboration efforts.

This program includes five different levels of monitoring. Factors affecting water quality and the resources available to each region determine the level of monitoring for a particular lake.

The levels of monitoring are:

1. Weekly Summer Clarity (Secchi) and Surface Water Temperature Readings

  • a minimum of 12 readings taken, spread evenly throughout the summer
  • provides a minimum level of baseline information about a lake
  • would be valuable to obtain this level of data for a large number of lakes from different biogeoclimatic zones for climate and eutrophication research
  • can be coordinated by the BCLSS
  • no MoE involvement necessary

2. Spring Overturn Water Chemistry and Dissolved Oxygen (DO)/Temperature (T) Profile Complimented by Weekly Summer Clarity (Secchi) and Surface Water Temperature Readings

  • provides a second level of baseline information about a lake
  • DO/T profile required can be done by BCLSS staff and volunteers
  • MoE staff could do spring overturn water chemistry with the assistance of the BCLSS and volunteers as an option
  • Sampling at multiple depths may be required if DO/T profile shows the lake is not homogeneous

3. Same as Level 2, Adding Multiple Depth Water Chemistry and Biological Sampling Biweekly Throughout the Summer

  • provides more detailed information on the lake such as possible summer oxygen depletion, internal nutrient loading and plankton species present
  • results in a more comprehensive baseline data
  • a sediment core can be taken for insight into historic water quality to assess whether the lake has changed over time
  • can be coordinated by BCLSS staff and carried out by volunteers
  • some MoE staff involvement necessary
  • significantly higher cost and effort required over 1 and 2

4. A Level 1, 2 or 3 Combined with a Watershed Study such as the one done by Hart and Associates on the Chinney - Felker Watershed

  • provides relative magnitudes of potential affects of different land uses
  • can answer questions such as: how much of an effect are septic systems having?
  • is of great value in prioritizing management efforts i.e. put the greatest effort where there is the best potential benefit
  • considerably more expensive than 1, 2, or 3
  • will likely require the services of a consultant, but can be assisted greatly by local stewardship groups and agencies
  • MoE staff involvement necessary

5. Full Watershed Assessment that includes 1, 2, 3 and 4 as well as Stream Monitoring for Water Chemistry and Assessment of Riparian Areas

  • the ultimate study, but is very expensive and time consuming
  • not practical or necessary for every watershed
  • large amount of MoE staff involvement necessary

After three years of monitoring, the data collected by volunteers from each lake will be summarized into a lake-specific report by the BCLSS. It is important to note, however, that a minimum of 12 equally spaced samples taken throughout the spring/summer seasons are required in order to collect meaningful data. The lake reports are reader-friendly and will describe the trends in the lake parameters that were monitored. The report will also provide the residents and seasonal users of the lakes with an idea of potential changes in water quality and will identify any problems associated with these changes. Where possible, the reports will make recommendations for further lake monitoring and assessment. Please refer to our library page to view lake reports already completed.

The BCLSS provides all volunteers with the necessary training and equipment. As of the end of the original three-year program (March 31, 2006), over 225 volunteers had received training on 56 lakes with 43 lakes actively monitoring under the program.

If you are interested in participating in this program, please contact the BCLSS.

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