Climate change is a deciding factor in record high water levels in the Great Lakes being higher than ever before, a University of Waterloo professor told CTV’s Your Morning on Wednesday. According to government statistics, July water levels for the bodies of water between Canada and the U.S. were at record highs. And this can lead to faster erosion of the coastline and flooding. The flooding this spring and summer along the northern shores of Lake Ontario, the Toronto Islands and some Toronto-area beaches has been particularly troublesome for homeowners and businesses.
Rising water levels in the St. Lawrence Seaway could cost the economy more than $1 billion, shippers and port operators say. A new study from the Chamber of Marine Commerce warns that opening the floodgates further at a dam in Cornwall, Ont., would wash away between $1 billion and $1.75 billion in revenue for businesses on both sides of the border. A board of control recently increased the flow at the Moses Saunders Dam — the only control point on the St. Lawrence Seaway, which includes the Great Lakes — to allow 10,400 cubic metres of water per second out of Lake Ontario.
Ontario's government is working to protect what matters most by identifying priorities for action to help protect the water quality and ecosystems of the Great Lakes and other waterways as part of its commitment in the Made-in-Ontario Environment Plan. Today, Rod Phillips, Minister of the Environment, Conservation and Parks and Grand Council Chief Glen Hare co-chaired the Great Lakes Guardian Council, which includes leaders from across Ontario including municipalities, First Nations and Métis communities, environmental organizations, and the science community, to discuss challenges and opportunities around the Great Lakes.
Water is something most Canadians take for granted. We have so much of it, it's no wonder. Per capita, our country has the world's third-largest freshwater reserves, but yet in many Indigenous communities, water can be difficult to access, at-risk because of unreliable treatment systems, or contaminated. That's the case in Delaware First Nation, an Indigenous community of about 500 people an hour southwest of London, Ont., a place where fishing was everything 60 years ago.
The changes caused by declining ice cover on the Great Lakes are pretty bad, but it's not all doom and gloom. Ice cover on the Great Lakes has declined in the past 40 years with average ice coverage dropping up to 75 per cent, depending on the lake. "We rely a lot on the Great Lakes for shipping ... so an ice-free Great Lake is not a barrier to shipping. But beyond that there are a lot of negatives associated," said Mike McKay, the executive director for the Great Lakes Institute for Environmental Research (GLIER), based at the University of Windsor.
A handful of Chatham farms might hold the answer to reducing toxic algae blooms in the Great Lakes. These farms are collecting and analyzing their agricultural runoff, in hope of reducing the amount of phosphorus entering the waterways. It's part of a project, started by two organizations in Spring 2016, which aims to come up with a strategy to deal with toxic algae blooms. Out of that idea for the project — between the Ontario Federation of Agriculture and the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence Cities Initiative — came the Thames River Phosphorus Reduction Collaborative.
The Great Lakes region is warming faster than the rest of the U.S., a trend that is likely to bring more extreme storms while also degrading water quality, worsening erosion and posing tougher challenges for farming, scientists report. In a report commissioned by the Chicago-based Environmental Law & Policy Center, the annual mean air temperature in the region increased 0.89 C in the periods 1901-60 and 1985-2016 — compared to 0.67 C for the rest of U.S.
A new study is taking the fight against microfibres in the Great Lakes back to the source: washing machines. The tiny particles of plastic are shed by synthetic fabrics like nylon and fleece when they're washed, slipping through water treatment plants and into the lakes. To stem the flow, researchers will install about 100 special filters on washing machines in Parry Sound, Ont. to see if they reduce the amount of plastic particles that show up at the town's water treatment plant.
'We're coming together to make awareness to take care of the water,' says elder Shirley Williams
In 2003, when Anishnaabe elder Josephine Mandamin took her first ceremonial water walk around Lake Superior, she wanted to share the message that the water is sick and people need to fight for that water, to speak for that water and to love that water.