Breaking the Cycle on Moose Lake – Colin Hanusz, LICA

After 1,500 people signed an online petition to clean up Moose Lake and the Moose Lake meeting hosted by Lakeland Agricultural Research Association last Monday – talks have been ramping up about Moose Lake. Colin Hanusz has followed the issues surrounding Moose Lake for years, and explains why the algae blooms were worse this year and what can be done about it in the short-term.

The water quality at Moose Lake has been declining over the past few years as residents and users of the lake have noticed.

This is confirmed through the water quality testing collected by the Alberta Lake Management Society and local volunteers through funding by LICA – Environmental Stewards.

The summer of 2018 had algae blooms to an extent that had not been seen before on Moose Lake. The root cause of the algae growth in the lake is from nutrient loading, specifically in the form of phosphorous.

The phosphorous levels in the water need to be reduced in order to starve the algae of the nutrients that they need to grow.

The levels that we are currently seeing in Moose Lake are elevated due to a combination of factors.

Phosphorous can be washed into the lakes after the snow melts or heavy rains from the surrounding watershed. Fertilizers and soap residue found in waste water are also common ways for phosphorous to enter the lake.

Phosphorous is very difficult to remove once it enters a lake, so prevention is the best long term solution.

There are actions that individual home owners can take to help prevent more phosphorous from entering the lake.

Septic systems can be inspected and upgraded to ensure they are functioning properly. Riparian areas around the lake and creeks that flow into the lake can be restored with woody vegetation that will absorb the nutrients from the watershed before they enter the water.

Applying fertilizer at the right rate and time can also ensure that the fertilizers enter the soil and not runoff into the nearest waterbody.

A simple change that everyone can make is to start using phosphate free soaps and detergents. These options are available locally and have a positive impact on any watershed.

It is important that everyone makes some of these changes, regardless of whether you live on the lake shore, the banks of the creeks that flow into the lake, or anywhere in between. Once phosphates get into the water they flow downhill to pollute the nearest waterbody.

Over the next few years LICA, in partnership with the Moose Lake Watershed Society, will be organizing shoreline cleanups to pick up both garbage and decaying plant matter that has washed up on shore.

Decaying plant matter releases stored phosphorous back into the water. But if we can remove it, we can break the cycle of nutrients the hard way.

This type of cleanup is very labor intensive and would require hundreds of volunteers to be effective, but has worked at other lakes in the province.

We need to work together to break the cycle of nutrients that are feeding the growth of the algae in Moose Lake.

This data has been summarized into reports and can be found on our website at http://www.lica.ca We encourage everyone to read these reports and become familiar with the water quality parameters that are measured so that we can all help to break the cycle of nutrients.

Colin Hanusz, Watershed Program Manager, LICA Environmental Stewards