Posted on 24-01-2017
Over the last few months we have attended several conferences about lake management. The keynote speakers all had back grounds in science and were attached at one point or another to a University. These meetings have given me the answer, the problem with our lakes are not the Weeds or the Algae blooms the problem is the people people who live on or near the lakes.
In a society that blames gun violence on guns and not the people behind the weapon. People's ignorance can be the cause of most issues plaguing this planet, but not all. Well in this case much of the reason we are looking at this is because “Man” has changed the landscape. Before people moved to lake areas the lakes were surrounded by woods, bogs , swamps, and natural grasses that would act as a buffer. These buffers or would filter out the watershed around the lake removing the phosphorus and other elements that could cause highly fertilized water. The trees that lined the lake shore also shaded the shallows of the lake reducing the suns effects on plant growth. Learn more about Watershed Managemen here.
Lake shore properties are in very high demand, due to the fact that there are limited amount of lakes in any one area. So houses started to spring up, early on these were small bungalows at the end of a dirt road. They were really just summer retreats or camps not year round dwellings. They were small and for the most part the land owners didn’t remove the entire buffer that was around the shore of the lake. The lakes were still in pretty good shape, but over time the desire to live on the lake shore became coveted by the wealthy as a status symbol so the small bungalow’s were sold and torn down. New paved roads were put in, and the bungalow were replaced by much larger homes. These new home owners were different, they wanted to live in the area year round, so the towns had to develop the areas, putting in new utilities, sewers, catch basins (that flow into the lake), and water services. The properties changed even more, large trees that lined the lake shore were removed so that the home owner could have a better view of the lake. The lots would be cleared of the native plants and replaces with grass and more ornamental shrubs all the way to the waters edge. All swamps or bogs were filled in to create more room for development.
These properties now have beautifully manicured lawns and landscaping, but there was a few problems. The shore line begins to erode, because there are no rooted plants to hold the dirt in place, so the almighty seawall gets installed. A beautiful concrete wall that the waves can hit against, instead of the natural landscape that would absorb the wave action. Next problem is the new grass lawns and the shrubs, need to be fertilized. So the home owner dumps lawn and plant fertilizers ( 3 times a year) to keep the lawn looking beautiful and green. Now, with all the changes to the landscape and the newly sloped yard towards the water, the rain would come and wash all the fertilizers into the lake.
So time goes by, but its not to long before the lake starts to changes. One day the home owner comes home to take a swim off his dock, “WEEDS, disgusting lake weeds, where did they come from?” The weeds are a symptom of a much large problem, which is the change in the nutrients that are going into the lake. So the home owner says to the other home owners, “We need to get rid of these weeds or our house values will plummet” so they contact a company that sells aquatic weed killer chemicals. This company will sell you the chemical and apply it for the lake as a service. The home owners are happy, the chemicals are applied and the weeds die. About 1 month goes by and the weeds are back, but the chemical company already knows this and they need to come back for another application. Home owners are happy again but these treatments are getting expensive.
So what happens, on a very hot and still day the home owners wake up to go boating on there weed free lake to find the color of the water has changed “ITS GREEN”. Algae has taken hold and turned all the Phosphorous rich water into a disgusting green soup. Outraged at the color they call the chemical company again to solve this problem. Blue Green algae is toxic so you don’t want to go near that.
The lake is reacting to the changing of the landscape, the added fertilizers, hard surface run off and lack of trees that once surrounded this once beautiful lake. The first symptom is the increase in subsurface weed growth, they treat it with a PILL, like aspirin to get rid of the symptom, but the side effect of that pill can be worse then the original symptom. So with no weeds in the lake to consume the phosphorus that is being poured into the water by the land owners, massive algae blooms are created.
So there you have it, man and his need for change is our lakes biggest problem.