PROJECT DEFINITION

The project rationale:

The system which we are going to examine is the Laurel Creek system part of the Laurel Creek watershed. As of this point in time we have not delineated a particular portion of the creek area. Some options may include the areas from:

All of these areas effect how efficiently the watershed functions, and how well it operates compared to a natural stream system with natural rates of erosion.

Erosion is a naturally occurring process which accounts for the loss of soil and sediment through the transportation of load within the system. This process when occurring at natural rates maintains an erosional balance as dictated by the stream discharge but when impacted upon by humans this natural balance can be upset causing excessive erosion to occur.

When excessive erosion results because of human interaction, what results is erosion many times higher than the natural amount. In addition an increased amount of sediment is transported within the system causing many problems to occur. Some of these problems can already be seen within the Laurel Creek watershed system. Environmental problems associated with excessive erosion are:

These aforementioned problems include only the environmental costs of excessive erosion other costs such as economic and aesthetic costs also need consideration.

When excessive erosion occurs upstream of a reservoir or lake it causes more severe problems to the lake then to the creek. Because of the streams carrying capacity, it will carry a load until a point at which the velocity of the stream can no longer support the sediments grain size, then due to the force of gravity it will drop the carried load at the point where it intercepts the larger body of water i.e. the lake or reservoir. When this occurs a delta may be formed at the mouth of the river allowing for the carried particles to disperse into the lake or reservoir causing it to become filled with sediment. This has occurred with the Laurel Creek watershed system and Silver Lake.

Silver Lake, over the years, has become contaminated by the polluted runoffs and eroded land carried down through the Laurel Creek watershed system. Culprits such as the construction industry with their poor construction practices and traditional farmers with their polluting chemicals and poor farming practices have lead to drastically increased erosion and loss of topsoil by the tonne. Due to this neglect legislation has been introduced to try and curb the problem which has been created. But unfortunately this measure is a little to late for Silver Lake. A class environmental assessment has been inducted to manage the problem at hand. Not only will the area need to be dredged, costing the tax payers thousands of dollars, but the whole area needs to be refurbished with indigenous species boardwalks and lightening, total cost of the project-- over a million dollars.

This is what we wish to avoid in the future. Farmers must be indoctrinated with the idea of sustainability, construction companies must become accountable for their actions, and society must view this issue as important enough to enforce, these things though, only come with time.

Our document will focus on sustainability and the improved economics of a natural system. Once chosen we will examine an area of creek for its aesthetic qualities, the available habitat it possesses--for fish, animals, insects, birds, amphibians and invertebrates, the diversity of species present, it's water quality, temperature and clarity as well as the amount of sediment traveling within the system. These criteria should indefinitely distinguish the quality of the system and the erosional capabilities it possesses.

The actors which may or currently do have a stake in the quality of the Laurel Creek watershed system include the following:

  1. Grand River Conservation Authority - improve quality of entire watershed system
  2. U of W-Plant Operations - improve water quality on campus through sustainability and natural practices
  3. Farmers - to remove water-for crops or livestock and get the best return for the money spent
  4. Erosion Group (US) - to promote awareness of ill practices and to reduce the amount of erosion on campus
  5. Activists groups - to promote environmental awareness
  6. Construction Companies - to make the most profit from each endeavor

All of these people or corporations for one reason or another either by choice or through legislation are accountable for their actions or inaction's pertaining to the issue of Laurel Creek or the engulfing watershed.

Through this study we hope to uncover the problems associated with excessive erosion, its' impact on our campus system, as well a surrounding water systems encompassing the Laurel Creek watershed. With this information we hope to inform the general public on the aforementioned problems of human impact on watersheds and what they can do to avoid future problems. In addition the by-laws placed on activity surrounding a water system will be examined, and what can be done to improve their enforcement. We hope to open peoples' eyes to this problem, and hopefully, with our findings invoke change in on and off campus practices.

Data associated with our project will be obtained through research--both background and field, internet searches, contact with conservation authorities (Tricia Nash, biologist associated with GRCA), and activist groups, discussions with faculty, and finally contact with a consultant--Glenn Harrigton, of Harrigton and Hoyle. Our group would also like to hear comments on this endeavor by anyone reading this article through e-mail (our address is listed at the bottom). Faculty members on campus which may become useful or provide direction or assistance to the project include: