Environment - Water

Since 2001, the Township has partnered with ratepayer associations within The Archipelago to conduct water quality monitoring. Participating associations include most of our inland lakes and Georgian Bay. The Township supplies the equipment, coli-plates, training and consultant, while Association volunteers carry out the monitoring and provide the data to the Township.

This spring The Archipelago has partnered with the Georgian Bay Biosphere Reserve (GBBR) on environmental programming, which includes coordinating the Township’s water quality monitoring program. GBBR has been in touch with water quality monitors and ratepayer associations about the registration process and equipment logistics for this year’s program.

Please note that formal training is not planned for this year, but if you are in need of a refresher session or clarification about the water quality monitoring protocols, please get in touch. If you are interested in becoming a water quality monitoring volunteer, please contact David Bywater, Georgian Bay Biosphere Reserve (GBBR) conservation@gbbr.ca, 705-774-0978.

Photo Credit: Aidan Tierney

Water Quality Monitoring Program Outline (December 2016)  pdf button375 kb

Water Quality Monitoring Reports

A detailed survey of our 4 southern inland lakes has also been conducted.

State of the Bay - A report Card on Ecosystem Health

Good water quality is one of the top concerns of people living on or using Georgian Bay.  Phosphorus was one of the environmental indicators used in the State of the Bay report card.  An “indicator” is a certain feature of the environment that is able to give us signs whether the environment is healthy and when it is changing. For example, measuring phosphorus helps to tell a story about water quality.

For phosphorus, we measure a nutrient called phosphorus in the water, and use the average concentration of total phosphorus in a given region, based on micrograms per litre (μg/L).   Phosphorus occurs in natural ecosystems and is a nutrient that is required by plants to grow. In large freshwater lakes, total phosphorus levels can be quite low. In shallower, protected bays near wetlands, total phosphorus levels are expected to be much higher.

According to the Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement, a healthy goal for total phosphorus concentration in the open waters of Lake Huron is 5 μg/L.  So we used this target as a phosphorus benchmark in the State of the Bay report card and grades for this indicator are as follows:

A = < 5 μg/L
B = 5 – 9.99 μg/L
C = 10 – 14.99 μg/L
D = 15 – 19.99 μg/L
F = > 20 μg/L

Our regional results combine data from two monitoring programs carried out by the Ontario Ministry of Environment:

(1) the Great Lakes Nearshore Assessment &
(2) the volunteer Lake Partner Program.

The overall trend is that phosphorus concentrations have been declining in eastern Georgian Bay due to nutrient management in the southern parts of the Bay, and likely due to invasive species, such as zebra and quagga mussels, that absorb large amounts of nutrients.

Nutrients are the foundation of the aquatic food chain – phosphorus and nitrogen support phytoplankton and zooplankton, which in turn feed small fish, supporting a productive fish community. The overall loss of nutrients due to invasive zebra and quagga mussels is having a destabilizing effect on the aquatic ecosystem of eastern Georgian Bay. At the same time, there are hot spots where nutrient levels are high and where blue-green algae is occurring – including Sturgeon Bay and French River.

To learn what grade your region of Georgian Bay received, please visit: www.stateofthebay.ca

Water Quality Concerns

Blue-Green Algae
For information and news releases about blue-green algae blooms, click here.

Sturgeon Bay Project
Comprehensive studies of the Sturgeon Bay basin have been ongoing since severe algae blooms appeared in 2004. For information and reports about the Sturgeon Bay Project, including the proposed Phoslock application, click here.