Steenburg Lake Community Association

President's Spring Message

As I write this, on the last day of April, having gladly said goodbye to the long and snow filled winter, it is again snowing hard, and a cold gray wind is lashing the lake into whitecaps. Make it stop!

The good news is, the ice is gone, and the loons have returned, along with the heron and the kingfisher, the red wing, and many of their companions. The trees already show a little bit of new green across the lake (whenever the snow slackens so I can see that far) and there are a few tiny white wildflowers daring to show their blooms just in front of the cottage. Spring will come.

Late last fall the newly formed executive of the Source Water Protection initiative, under the Provincial Ministry of the Environment, called for volunteers for the Committee. Because of the important implications for our lake and the surrounding area, I applied and was appointed to the Committee as the municipal representative for the Crowe Valley Conservation area. Source Protection planning flows from the lessons learned from the tragic events in Walkerton where several people died as a result of contamination of the municipal drinking water supply. The objective is to systematically catalogue all municipal water supply sources, to identify potential problems which could impact quality or quantity of supply, and then to create a plan to address those problems.

In the simplest terms, it is only municipal water supply infrastructure which is involved, but when one begins to look at the relationship of both ground water and surface water to those municipal water systems, the picture becomes much more complex. Within any watershed, what happens upstream has an influence on everyone who lives downstream. Thus, Steenburg Lake, which is a true headwaters lake, will have either a good effect, or a bad one, on many of the wells, and any surface water intakes, below us.

At present, Source Protection is a very collaborative process. The input from the Committee representatives is being listened to, and the Committee is charged with the responsibility of creating a plan which is workable for the people it will impact. Representation on the Committee is broadly based, and there are many intelligent and qualified individuals working to come up with sensible regulations. The opinions of individuals, and individual municipalities, are being given audience right up to the Ministerial level, so that everyone can be heard.

The present project is to be completed by 2012, following which there will be implementation of the plan, with any necessary enforcement. However, the concept is that the program is ongoing, and I expect the next phase will address individual well owners, and individual water taking from our lake, as well as any other. At the same time, another branch of government is projecting a system of inspections, and enforcement of standards, for individual septic system owners. In our area, this program will only come into effect after the Source Protection Plan is announced in 2012, whereas areas not subject to Source Protection (such as Bancroft and the York River watershed) will be forced to address this issue sooner.

The bottom line is that government is continuing to manage life in outlying areas such as Steenburg Lake, and our activity on the lake can never be the same as it was a few years ago. While that may be a good thing from the standpoint of public safety and personal well being, it also means that we on the lake need to be better informed, more aware of regulations, and generally more pro active than ever before. It also means that the idea of the cottage as a simple way of life, and a relatively inexpensive recreation property, is probably gone. All these programs have a cost both for the individual and for the municipality which is charged with the responsibility of implementing the rules. Individual owners with substandard septic systems will face the expense of getting their system up to standard. Well owners already face costs to ensure that surface water doesn’t get into the well, and from there into the water supply in the aquifer, thus contaminating other wells. Those of us who draw water from the lake will probably face new standards to ensure that the water is potable at the tap. And we all have an increased need to exercise care not to contaminate our waterway with pesticides, petroleum, bacteria, or any other pathogen.

Lastly, there is the matter of availability of water for human consumption. While this has been far from the minds of the people impacted by floodwaters this spring, it is the next great challenge of supply that we and the rest of this world will face. Someone recently said that the next war will be fought over water, and that is probably not a hollow prediction. We need to carefully conserve the resource we have. Don’t pollute the lake or the ground. Maintain a vegetative buffer along the lake to filter and slow water migrating downstream. Reduce the volume of water we use. Collect rainwater and use it on flowerbeds and gardens. The problem of availability of water will be exacerbated as we experience Global Warming. Even if you still remain skeptical about the causes, it is happening. We need to be ready.

David Golem