The Ontario Lakes for the Future (OLF) program provided a platform to support existing lake and watershed health monitoring protocols, laying the groundwork for just such a standard methodology for collecting data on Canada’s surface waters. The OLF provided the opportunity for local community members to closely monitor near and off shore Phosphorous levels, bacteria, turbidity and temperature.
study how human land-based activities effect the quality of near shore zone surface water in the lakes of interest to the participating Associations
monitor long-term trends in surface water quality in the lakes of interest to the Associations
protect and enhance local ecosystems of interest to the Associations through the creation of local citizen-initiated action plans and comprehensive plans valued by the local community and formally recognized by local government agencies
EcoSpark’s OLF program was an important part of understanding lake health with near shore testing protocols that offered a diverse “collage” view of lake health taken at eight separate times per year. This complemented the Ministry of Environment and Climate Change’s Lake Partner Program with monitoring that provides a single annual snapshot of general lake health.
Near shore and offshore sites were tested to monitor the impacts of human related activities (noticed first at near shore locations) as compared to general levels at the middle of the lake where Phosphorous has the opportunity to mix and dilute.
Near shore areas are biologically diverse and important zones for aquatic life and recreational use. Any problems in these areas generally become immediately visible and problematic to lake users. These areas are also the most likely to suffer from human based impacts such as poor septic system health, development, landscaping and clearing of natural vegetation. Testing phosphorous in these areas may reveal relationships between land use and near shore water quality. Tests that closely monitor these relationships (such as those conducted through the OLF program) may generate results which could guide future management and stewardship activities in the lakes.
Various Lake Associations including the Muskoka Lakes Association