Lake Water Monitoring

Our water committee has continued to meet and work actively on developing a better understanding of the lake basin and for the safety of everyone will be undertaking both a water quality monitoring program and research program again this summer.  We also have several teams of students from area universities doing research to help us better understand our lake ecosystem.

We still have a serious issue with an overabundance of nutrients such as phosphorus and nitrogen getting into the lake that is setting the stage for serious future problems be it algae, e-coli or cyanobacteria.

Not only will we need to closely monitor the safety of the lake (as other Canadian lakes with cyanobacteria issues saw dog and cattle deaths this past year) we need to find ways to significantly decrease the nutrient loading of the lake and remove existing nutrients being found in concerning levels to reduce the potential for future issues.  Everyone needs to consider phosphorus filters on their septic tanks – particularly for any new systems or septics being upgraded.

Similar to last year there will be a Lake Association Annual Fee surcharge to help offset the costs of these very expensive tests and research.  You can learn more at the Lake Association website – www.sunfishlake.ca and we will keep you posted as monitoring gets underway in the weeks ahead.

Thanks again to Nancy, Rob, and Bob for all the hours they have volunteered on our water issues.

Tree Planting

Geese Challenges

Now that the ice is off the lake it is that time of year where geese are looking to nest.  As in previous years we need to do everything possible to keep the geese from overrunning our lake like they do with other nearby waterbodies like Columbia Lake or Silver Lake.  With the water quality issues we have already been facing, the increased e-coli and fecal coliform counts from a large number of geese on the lake could quite likely render the lake unfit for swimming or recreational use this summer, not to mention the impacts for those who draw tap water from the lake.

There are also a couple of very persistent Mallard ducks that have been trying to nest on the lake which could also contribute significantly to poor water quality and parasites that cause ear infections – particularly in children if they are successful at nesting and hatching their young ducks here.

We encourage you to try to scare the geese and ducks and be threatening anytime that you see them.  The Lake Association has several remote control boats and there is a spare boat available if you or anyone in your family is interested in helping with it this summer.  Everyone is also encouraged to keep their shoreline as natural as possible as tall grasses help to deter the geese and thanks to Dave Hudspeth who has reactivated the flashing orange night lights in the middle of the lake which seem to be helpful at discouraging geese at night.

Sunfish Lake Water Update

one of several teams of researchers we currently have here at Sunfish Lake has just released an excellent video of the work that they have been doing with drones (and in the future satellites) at our lake.  Check out Dr. Claude Duguay’s video here.

Some of our water researchers have also created an online website working with a National Geographic portal to profile their work at Sunfish Lake.  They are the group that has set-up the ice camera’s around the lake.  Interestingly they are finding patterns similar to Lake Baikal in Russia – one of the deepest lakes in the world.  They can’t explain it but hope to keep researching more in the months ahead.  You can learn more and see some of the highlights of their work here.

We are extremely fortunate to have these experts and many others helping us to better understand our lake and its surrounding ecosystem.  Thanks again to Jill Crumb from Treefrong Environmental for all the help with our water safety monitoring for cyanobacteria, our tribuatary research team from the University of Waterloo lead by Patricia Hyunh, along with Bev Raimbault, Anne Grant and all the University of Waterloo Laboratories volunteers for the analysis of hundreds of samples throughout the year.

Thankfully our lake remained safe for swimming and use most of 2018 though we did experience a cyanobacteria outbreak confoundingly in November well past any anticipated or expected timing.  The mysteries of Sunfish Lake are baffling our researchers (and drawing increasing interest as a result) however, it is clear that we still have a serious issue with an overabundance of nutrients such as phosphorus and nitrogen getting into the lake that is setting the stage for serious future problems.

Not only will we need to closely monitor the safety of the lake (as other Canadian lakes with cyanobacteria issues saw dog and cattle deaths this past year) we need to find ways to significantly decrease the nutrient loading of the lake and remove existing nutrients being found in concerning levels to reduce the potential for future issues.

Thanks again to Nancy, Rob, Bob, Sue, Jessica, Deb and everyone who volunteered extensively with our water research efforts.

Other Water Research

In addition to our water monitoring and water/tributary research teams we have had several other groups doing research on Sunfish Lake this summer.

Environment Canada Grant

We received news this week that despite considerable effort pulling together a 40+ page proposal for rehabilitation and research, our funding application to the Environment Canada Community Project Fund has been turned down.  Only 13 of 82 applications were funded so it was a very competitive process though we hope to learn more in the days ahead about how we can reapply for the future since it is increasingly apparent that the ecology of Sunfish Lake as well as the entire planet is changing with global warming and that we are going to have to be far more proactive if we hope to keep a healthy and thriving lake.  Thanks to Bob Hudgins and everyone else who invested considerable time and effort into this funding application.

Septic Testing

As part of our ongoing water research throughout the Sunfish Lake watershed to try to determine where our excess nutrient levels (phosphorus and nitrates) are coming from, we are again going to be testing soil samples – in particular testing each septic leaching bed like we did last year.

We are hoping for improved accuracy this year, thus volunteers will be coming to help mark your septic area with little orange flags.  If you can help them locate the four corners approximately of your septic field (“where the grass is normally greener”) that would be appreciated.  Also, please leave the flags in place for a few weeks until the University of Waterloo lab technicians obtain the soil samples.

Water Quality Concerns

It has been a busy summer for our water monitoring and water research teams.  Once again kudo’s to Nancy, Rob, Bob, Jill, Patricia, and everyone else helping with our volunteer efforts.  A great many hours have been spent out gathering water samples from our tributaries, lake surface locations, lake depths, and outlet streams then analyzing all the samples in the labs.

Our water samples have tested satisfactory for most of the year so far, however our nutrient levels remain far too high (too much phosphorus).  We have seen the good indicators dropping and the concerning indicators rising consistently as anticipated/predicted over the summer.  Our testing yesterday has found cyanobacteria levels high enough (with multiple cyanobacteria/algae clusters found) that we felt the need to issue this e-mail warning to people that while we are not yet in a full cyanobacteria outbreak caution now needs to be exercised around the lake.

In particular, given the number of dog deaths in other water bodies recently from cyanobacteria we are recommending that area residents keep their dogs out of the lake as the dogs can ingest potential toxins by drinking the water or licking their fur afterwards.  We are also cautioning people not to drink the water or use it for cooking as their are no filters or boiling methods that can remove the neurotoxins from the water.

At this point, our tests are showing the lake is still at safe levels for swimming in open, clear, water however this could change quickly if large paint-like algae slicks or algae blooms that we saw in 2015 appear.

We have seen a number of dead fish in the past week which is unusual for Sunfish Lake though we have not been able to determine the cause of their death.

Please let us know immediately if you see any paint-like algae slicks, dead fish, or anything concerning/unusual around the lake.  We will continue to monitor the lake and let you know any changes or updates.

Canada Post – New Mailman for Sunfish Lake

Welcome Mr. Jesse Kraft!  After more than a decade of mediocre service, our previous mailman has been fired and one of the favourite mail carriers in all of Waterloo Region has been assigned to our rural route.  You should notice an immediate improvement with fewer errors and more timely mail delivery.

For those at the north end of Sunfish Lake, there is also a new community super mailbox at the corner of the Wilmot Line and Cedar Grove Road.  It has an outgoing mail section and the capacity for larger parcels.  Jesse is asking that each family please tape a label with their family name and the names of everyone who may receive mail to their address inside their mailbox as he gets to know everyone on the route.