The Columbia Lake Stewardship Society (CLSS) is a group with a mission to preserve the ecological health and water supply of Columbia Lake for present and future generations through scientific investigation, collaboration, and outreach. The society envisions Columbia Lake becoming an example of the balance that can exist between nature and the needs of our communities. Columbia Lake is the primary lake at the headwaters of the Columbia River. The lake is lined with clay banks covered with mixed stands of Ponderosa Pine, dry-belt Douglas Fir, and Golden Western Larch.
CLSS is run by a dedicated team of directors that include concerned citizens, local business owners, and individuals from geology, meteorology, engineering, and nursing professions. In addition to the directors, they have had a summer student for the past five years and this is the first year having a year round programme coordinator.
CLSS began monitoring Columbia Lake for water quality and water quantity in 2014. They work closely with other organizations including the Lake Windermere Ambassadors, Columbia Wetlands Stewardship Partners, Living Lakes Canada, and the BC Lake Stewardship Society to share information and knowledge. For water quantity, the CLSS measures the quantity of water that flows from several streams around the lakes. They have installed a network of stations to measure the amount of water entering and leaving the lake and to monitor changes in lake level. They have also installed a weather station to measure rainfall and estimate snow runoff.
In addition to water quantity, they also measure water quality on the lake at several locations and on some of the inflowing streams. They measure pH, temperature, turbidity, conductivity every two weeks and once per month they collect water samples for analysis that includes parameters such as Magnesium, Iron, Chloride, Total and Dissolved Phosphorus, Total and Dissolved Nitrogen, and Nitrate and Nitrite. This baseline data allows them to monitor lake health and to detect changes that may be of concern.
Another important component of the work that the CLSS team excels at is education and community engagement. CLSS has developed and delivered programs for classrooms, lake tours, and summer camps. This year, they ran free half day summer camps at Columere Park for local residents and at the Canal Flats in conjunction with the Lake Windermere Ambassadors. These camps included how to identify and protect common birds around the lake, how invasive species impact the local environment, what the Columbia Lake Watershed is and why it is important, and many other informative and creative lessons. They also engage the broader community by hosting weed pulls, supporting bird counts, and by developing and displaying signage and brochures at various points around the lake.
The work CLSS is doing to educate the public and maintain the health of Columbia Lake is inspiring. Their stewardship would not be possible without the many volunteers who are committed to keeping the lake pristine for generations to come. The BCLSS is grateful to work with dedicated groups such as the CLSS and we are excited to see the incredible events and initiatives they develop to support the watershed and surrounding environment. To learn more about what the Columbia Lake Stewardship Society does and how to get involved, you can visit their website. You can also follow them on Facebook and Instagram to stay up to date on their day-to-day activities.
Written by Marie McCallum