What does it mean to love your lake?
Loving your lake as a place to enjoy swimming, fishing, boating and exploring requires a commitment to care for and respect its natural wonders. You can love your lake in many different ways! As freshwater stewards, we can show our love and appreciation for lakes by enhancing and protecting their natural features.
Despite being called “the water planet”, more than 99 per cent of Earth’s water is unusable by humans and many other living things (National Geographic, 2022)! Less than three per cent of Earth’s water is freshwater, and only about 0.3 per cent of freshwater is accessible in the surface water of lakes, rivers, and swamps, rather than kept in glaciers and groundwater (National Geographic, 2022).
Canada has one-fifth or 20 per cent of the world’s total freshwater resources (Environment and Climate Change Canada, 2018). However, only about seven per cent of this global supply is renewable freshwater that can be accessed (Environment and Climate Change Canada, 2018). With this realization comes a recognition that we must protect and utilize this resource wisely. This begins with educating ourselves and future generations of freshwater stewards because together we are responsible for protecting the health and beauty of Canada’s freshwater.
Healthy Lakes Need Healthy Shorelines
Common misconceptions regarding shoreline protection have resulted in hardened shoreline practices. Previously, hardened shorelines were believed to stabilize and protect upland areas. However, recent evidence suggests short-term fixes like retaining walls actually cause severe ecological and economic impacts. With increasing shoreline developments, a shift to nature-based solutions requires a public change of perspective to protect our freshwater for future generations. Using nature-based solutions, we can promote shoreline resiliency and build capacity to adapt in response to changing environmental conditions.
A healthy lake starts with healthy shorelines! Loving your lake can be as simple as naturalizing your shoreline and taking proactive steps to reduce shoreline erosion and mitigate flood impacts. Creating a natural shoreline buffer with native grasses, trees, shrubs and wildflowers is an easy way to ensure the health of both your lake and waterfront property. Deep-rooted vegetation, like trees and shrubs, will bind and stabilize the soil while acting as natural barriers to reduce surface runoff, slow floodwaters, and filter pollutants and excess nutrients. Planting native wildflowers will also help attract local pollinators like bees and butterflies. Check out the Natural Edge’s Native Plant Database or the Canadian Wildlife Federation’s (CWF’s) Native Plant Encyclopedia to find vegetation naturally suited to withstand the climate, soil types, and environmental conditions of your local area. You can also use CWF’s Native Plant Suppliers List to find a native plant nursery near you!
Your shoreline was meant to be naturally beautiful! Natural shorelines create diverse habitats and maintain healthy ecosystems that support the success of native wildlife. For instance, establishing a “no mow” zone on your property allows for natural regeneration of native vegetation and deters Canada Geese. To limit foot traffic, try defining one curved path to your water and cover it in permeable materials such as wood chips, mulch or gravel. Leave overhanging branches, fallen trees and woody debris along your shoreline and in the water to create crucial fish and wildlife habitat. Besides, removing some of these features could require a permit! However you choose to naturalize your shoreline and love your lake, you are fostering a natural line of defence that contributes to the health and beauty of Canada’s freshwater!
You can improve your lake health and shoreline environment with help from the Love Your Lake program. Together, we can challenge the misconception that natural shorelines are inferior to hardened infrastructure for shoreline protection. Participate in Love Your Lake to naturalize your waterfront for greater shoreline stability, habitat enhancement, and improved freshwater health and biodiversity.
About the Love Your Lake Program
For 10 years, the Love Your Lake program, developed by Watersheds Canada and the Canadian Wildlife Federation, has been helping Canadians improve lake and shoreline health. Love Your Lake is a shoreline evaluation program designed to encourage lakefront property owners to take proactive steps toward improving lake health by creating and maintaining healthier shorelines. Lake associations and organizations are invited to volunteer their lake as participants in the program. When part of Love Your Lake, every property on the lake will be assessed using a standardized shoreline assessment protocol, and landowners will receive a personalized property report. These reports contain details on the state of the shoreline and recommended voluntary actions for improving lake health for people and wildlife. Participating in Love Your Lake is a great way to gauge the health of your lake and become a steward of your local freshwater!
Learn more about the Love Your Lake shoreline assessment program by visiting LoveYourLake.ca. For more ideas on how to love your lake and keep your shoreline property happy and healthy for future generations, visit LoveYourLake.ca/self-assessment for a quick online shoreline self-assessment tool.
Education Programs Administrator, Watersheds Canada