The Federation of Ontario Cottagers’ Associations (FOCA) has partnered for many years with the Ontario Ministry of the Environment and Climate Change (MOECC) on volunteer water-quality monitoring programs.
The Lake Partner Program (LPP) is Ontario’s volunteer inland lake monitoring program. The goal of the program is to better understand and protect the quality of Ontario’s inland lakes by involving citizens in a volunteer-based water quality monitoring program.
Each year approximately 600 volunteers (i.e., lake stewards or citizen scientists) monitor nearly 550 inland lakes at over 800 sampling locations (including lakes with multiple basins). About 85% of the volunteers sample lakes on the Canadian Shield and these volunteers collect one water sample in the spring each year. The remaining volunteers sample once a month during the ice-free season for lakes off the Canadian Shield. These water samples are used to measure nutrient concentrations (total phosphorous (TP) and calcium (Ca)) for Ontario’s inland lakes. Volunteers are also asked to make a minimum of six (roughly monthly) water clarity observations using a Secchi disk (Figure 1).
Ontario has over 200,000 lakes, and the majority of them are situated within the Canadian Shield. The lakes and watershed of the Canadian Shield are underlain by Precambrian granite bedrock. This means that the shallow, acidic soils tend to be naturally low in nutrients.
About half of Ontario’s lakes are considered to be “small” (under 10 hectares in surface area). Roughly 95% of Ontario’s lakes are smaller than 100 ha in surface area, with Lake Nipigon being the largest inland lake in Ontario (excluding the Great Lakes). An estimated 17% of Canadians freshwater is located in Ontario, yet only a small fraction of lakes are monitored for water quality (an estimated 1-2%).
The water quality and ecology of Ontario’s inland lakes reflect the watershed geology and vegetation, but human settlement, land-use change, climate, invasive species and chemical pollutants modify these influences.
Ontario’s inland lakes are among the province’s most valuable resources. By working together, we can improve our understanding of Ontario’s beautiful lakes, thereby helping to protect them for future generations.
The complex and dynamic nature of inland lakes requires continued monitoring and research to better inform management actions to protect these lakes for our enjoyment.
Individuals and communities can work together to help maintain the water quality of Ontario’s lakes. To find out more about what you can do to protect Ontario’s lakes, visit FOCA’s “Resources” page to access a wealth of information (www.foca.on.ca/resources), or contact firstname.lastname@example.org .
Contributed by Deanna Panitz, Membership and Programs Coordinator, Federation of Ontario Cottagers’ Associations.