Friends of Kootenay Lake volunteer Eric Sargent takes water samples.

Friends, fish and the future of Kootenay Lake

The Friends of Kootenay Lake are working with citizen-scientists and marinas to monitor the water quality of the local lake.

The Friends of Kootenay Lake are working with citizen-scientists and marinas to monitor the water quality of the local lake.

Modeled off of Lake Windermere ambassadors, Friends of Kootenay Lake are a one-year-old stewardship group dedicated to protecting the fish and wildlife habitat of Kootenay Lake, explains Claire de la Salle, program director.

The program has a two-pronged approach. There are 15 people on the lake that are taking weekly temperature and water clarity readings from 15 different sites. In addition, they are conducting a more intensive monitoring program on the West Arm where they monitor by boat 12 times between April-October.

Friends of Kootenay Lake are looking for volunteers to get involved with the effort, whether it’s taking weekly temperature readings off the end of a dock, taking water clarity readings from a boat, or joining them out on a chartered boat for a day.

“We’re giving the community members the tools they need to protect their own water resources,” de la Salle says.

“History has shown that without diligence on the part of local people, the values of the lake can be lost over time.”

“Kootenay Lake is an absolutely massive amazing lake and we need all the help we can get to monitor it,” she continues. “Believe it or not, Kootenay Lake is facing challenges right now. There is increasing shoreline development, climate change, lasting effects from hydro dams and also threats of invasive species.”

The program director points to the Sushwap where the shoreline is fully developed and salmon habitat was lost. While the West Arm of Kootenay Lake is quite populated, the main lake is largely wild. If the lake is valued as a drinking water supply with an active fishery, for example, monitoring and providing residents with tools to live healthfully by the water is vital.

“People look at the lake and think ‘oh, it’s so pristine. Why does it need help?’” relays de la Salle. “If we value the lake, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.”

Among other things, water samples are looked at for water clarity, nutrient levels, temperature and dissolved oxygen as well as fecal coliform to determine its safety for consumption. The three-year program is designed to collect important base-line information and to encourage a broader and deeper understanding of the lake’s ecosystem.

“We can come back whenever we feel it’s necessary and we will have something to compare to. We can monitor changes over time,” she says.

De la Salle explains there are many ways to get involved and while people have enthusiastically come forward, more help is needed.

“People want to feel connected to the lake and I feel that’s why this program has been able to attract volunteers,” she says.

Get involved with Friends of Kootenay Lake by contacting de la Salle at: info@friendsofkootenaylake.ca or at 250-777-2955. More information can also be found at friendsofkootenaylake.ca