Dramatic changes in water levels on Georgian Bay and Lake Huron have been apparent to both residents and visitors alike in recent decades. From 1999 to 2013, Georgian Bay experienced its longest timeframe for low water levels, which measured below the all-time historic low of 1964, at 70 cm below the long-term seasonal average.
In 2020, Lake Huron exceeded its record high for 8 months in a row, January to August. The all-time high previously recorded was set in 1986 of 177.50 metres, indicating a current range of 1.929 meters or 6.33 feet.
Sustained extremes in water levels can cause significant damage to both the natural environmental and urban infrastructure, diminishing the quality of drinking-water, and weakening residential, recreational and commercial foundation frameworks, much of which was built on wooden cribs that rot once exposed to the air. Sustained low water levels, for example can exacerbate water quality degradation, especially if it is already compromised. Low water levels can accelerate the degradation and destruction of aquatic habitat conditions, and strand wetlands, putting numerous species at risk. Likewise, sustained extremes in high water levels can result in flooding, property damage, coastal erosion, and even loss of life.
So, how can we become more resilient?
To start, pinpointing your area’s damage susceptibility on a flood map will allow for early decision-making for disaster-management and emergency preparedness. Resilience to flood, wind and increasing heat, moreover, requires planning. Constructing elevated above-ground living spaces, installing floating docks and boathouses which can adjust to water levels, flood-proofing buildings and basements, and converting non-natural hardened shorelines to naturalized ones are a few examples of resilient property design.