“Water, Water everywhere, but not a drop to drink…or to play in.” Today is International Blog Action Day, hosted by Change.org and the topic is Water; a commodity we in the Northeast of the USA take for granted – it costs little, and seems limitless. Not true however – fresh water only accounts for 3% of all the water on the globe and access to clean, uncontaminated drinking water is unavailable to almost 1/6th of the world’s population. Climate change impacts including changing levels of rainfall, decreasing runoff from glaciers, drought and smaller levels of snow pack are all contributing to making fresh water less available and more of a scarce commodity. We encourage you to read the many great articles out today on water. Become more educated on this topic, share what you find out with the kids in your life.
Our water story today is a personal one – a story about Pigeon Lake, Alberta, a body of water that is quickly changing and changing the way of life in and around it, in large part due to climate change and the unwitting manipulation of nature by man. Btw, did you know that here in the US 40% of American rivers and 46% of lakes are too polluted for fishing swimming or acquatic life?
Pigeon Lake is one of many freshwater lakes found throughout Canada. This particular lake is in Alberta, just south of Edmonton, the capital of the province. It is around 13 miles long and 7 miles wide. It is surrounded by cottages, mostly
summer homes were many families (including Climate Mama’s!) have been coming together for generations to share special times over the short summer season – staying up late with the midnight sun, playing in the water, swimming, fishing, boating, experiencing summer in Canada – hot beach days as well as the occasional snow storm! Anything is possible and inter-generational family memories are made every day!
Pigeon Lake has a shallow sandy bottom and is spring fed in addition to relying on precipitation to keep water levels up. Over the past 20 years, a combination of warmer winters, a decreasing ice pack, and therefore less melt waters are contributing to a lower volume of water overall and a lake which has been getting progressively shallower. The lake freezes solid in the winter and is used as a winter recreation site as well, where family memories are built around activities like ice fishing, cross country skiing, tobogganing and snowmobiling.
We are going to let pictures speak for themselves – a conflux of issues in addition to climate change including: nitrogen run off from pesticides used by local farmers, no mandatory sewage waste removal system around the lake (resulting in many septic fields that run into the lake), combined with increasingly hotter summers, earlier ice melt and warmer waters are increasing the algae content and the mean temperature of the lake. According to the United Nations, EVERY day around the world more than 2 million tons of human waste are dumped into our waterways!
The summers of 2008 and 2010 saw massive deaths of fresh water fish at Pigeon Lake. The algae build up contributes to oxygen depletion and has resulted in the systemic “die off” of certain species of fish as well as fresh water snails. As the health of the lake becomes more threatened this also threatens the family time spent at the lake and the creation of “special family moments” for generations of children and their opportunity to enjoy the lake’s stories and history with their loved ones.
Unfortunately the Pigeon Lake “story” is being retold in many northern lakes in Canada and the US. “Water, water everywhere but not a drop to drink….or to play in…”