Are Alberta Lakes the New Public Dump? - By Tia Gabruch, B.Sc., P.Biol.
Updated: Feb 27
“…we can estimate that the total potential weight of trash in Sylvan Lake could be approximately 86,760 kg. This is weight is equivalent to 14 school buses worth of trash, in just one Albertan lake!”
Freshwater is arguably one of the most important non-renewable resources on the planet. Due to climate change and anthropogenic overuse, freshwater is becoming a precious commodity. Luckily, Canada is considered a “water-rich” country, containing 20% of the worlds fresh-water supply and of that Alberta contains 2.2%. As Canadians, we should be proud of our resource and treat it with the utmost respect, however, after attending two lake clean ups, one in central and one in southern Alberta I found this was not the case.
In conjunction with the Underwater Outlaws Scuba Club and Alberta Underwater Council, Alberta Aquarium Volunteers attended underwater lake clean ups at Quarry Lake and Sylvan Lake this summer. Between the two lakes approximately 150 kg of garbage was collected from the bottom of the lakes. Although I would like to report the entirety of both lakes were stripped of their trashy remains, that is not the case. Only a small percentage of both lakes were cleaned.
In Sylvan Lake, a 1.5 km x 0.05 km area was searched and yielded approximately 135 kg of trash. With this information, we can estimate that the total potential weight of trash in Sylvan Lake could be approximately 86,760 kg. This is weight is equivalent to 14 school buses worth of trash, in just one Albertan lake! As the items were pulled out of the lake volunteers were able to sort through the mess in order to get a clearer vision of what exactly is being thrown into these lakes. Results for each lake is provided in the attached supporting documents.
Poor waste disposal can negatively impact the chemical composition of the water and in turn decrease the water quality. A decrease of water quality can result in aquatic ecosystems collapsing. Without a healthy ecosystem, waterbodies will be unable to support our favorite activities such as swimming, fishing, and water sports. With that said, not only is garbage an eye sore, it can also negatively impact the economy of small towns that use the lake as an attraction for tourism.
These numbers are staggering and should get you thinking “What can I do to help?” and news flash participating in these organized clean-up efforts (although the help is appreciated) is not the only way. In short make your everyday life a little cleaner. When you see a piece of trash, pick it up (even if it is not yours), do not bring items to the lake that have the potential to get lost in the depths, to never be seen again and / or bring garbage bags and pack your garbage out with you. Do not allow throwing trash on the ground to be normalized, use your voice, take action and lead by example and people will follow. Be the change in your community.