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Great Lakes water quality suffering: YOU can help

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Rachel Schoutsen
Presenter, The Weather Network

Thursday, May 1, 2014, 7:40 AM -

Only one per cent of the world's water is available for drinking. And as our climate changes, experts say, so does this water.

What does this mean for the five Great Lakes? To start:

  • Declining water levels
  • Rising temperatures
  • Pollution
  • Changes in precipitation
  • Stronger more isolated storms

Ryan Ness, Senior Manager of Research and Development with the Toronto and Region Conservation Authority, spoke to The Weather Network about his work with the Great Lakes and climate change.

"It’s changing the ways we get water. The change may be seasonally or day to day. We could be seeing different amounts or different kinds, but ultimately water levels are on the decline," Ness said.

We have already seen the drop in water levels on the Georgian Bay and this has affected people in the surrounding areas. But right now, along the Trent Severn Waterway, we are seeing flooding. So this must mean water levels cannot be on the decline.

Right?

Wrong.

"The issue with flooding is that in comparison to how large the bodies of water are a flooding event is not enough. At the time of the Toronto flood for example, it seemed large, but it did not make a difference for our water levels."

What it did make a difference in, however, was the pollution of the water.

"Water quality can suffer especially around urban areas because of storm water runoff. Water mixes in with the dirt and chemicals on our roads, driveways and houses and makes its way into the Great Lakes. This water is not very clean, it can almost be compared to sewage water,” Ness added.


GREAT LAKES ICE COVERAGE: Extensive ice coverage could result in a shorter swim season


We can see poor water quality especially after rainfall events and this affects living creatures in the water and recreational communities. But Toronto is not the only area suffering, Ness mentioned that water quality is an issue in many of the Great Lakes.

But as Canadians we can help. Ness suggests that rain gardens and rain barrels are a great way of trapping water and using it for our grass and gardens. There are also certain landscape measures we can take in order to hold more water and then use this to grow plants on our properties.

By doing this we are putting less pollution into the lakes.

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