State of the Bay – Water Quality Update

Enclosed Bays and Inland Lakes Phosphorus Monitoring Guideline

Guideline coverApril 2016

The Georgian Bay Biosphere Reserve (GBBR) is pleased to announce the release of the “Enclosed Bays and Inland Lakes Phosphorus Monitoring Guideline”.  For the past two years, with the support of Environment Canada, our Coordinated Nutrient Monitoring Program has reviewed past nutrient monitoring efforts and developed a new set of guidelines and recommendations. Among these recommendations are:

  1. Townships, ratepayer associations and volunteers should join the Lake Partner Program (LPP) administered by the Ontario Ministry of Environment and Climate Change.

The LPP is an Ontario-wide, publically funded, free program that collects data about phosphorus, water clarity, calcium and temperature from volunteers. Advantages to the LPP are that is facilitates comparisons with other organizations monitoring on the Bay, as well as the provincial and federal water quality monitoring programs. Data collected by volunteers is analyzed by the Dorset Environmental Science Centre which makes all data and reports available online. The Lake Partner Program detects both high and low phosphorus levels, which is a very important measure for inland lakes, enclosed bays, nearshore, and offshore areas of Georgian Bay.

To learn more about the LPP and/or to register, follow this link: http://desc.ca/programs/LPP

  1. Current Lake Partner Program (LPP) sampling locations should continue to be monitored in order to establish long-term records and trends.

Currently the LPP receives data from volunteers for approximately 800 lakes in Ontario and there are numerous LPP monitoring sites already associated with eastern Georgian Bay and in-land lakes. More sampling locations would be beneficial, in order to expand the range and types of sites being monitored within the Georgian Bay Biosphere Reserve.

  1. New LPP monitoring locations are proposed for eastern Georgian Bay and in-land lakes (and are shown on maps and listed in tables) as opportunities to be addressed by Townships, ratepayer associations and volunteers.

The guideline also contains a simple step-by-step protocol for selecting additional LPP locations in the event that interested parties have additional monitoring capacity.

Note: In some cases further monitoring is required beyond what is recommended by the LPP.  This would be primarily due to concerns relating to algal blooms.  The collection of additional water quality data should be determined on a case-by-case basis following a review of existing data. The guideline includes a decision tree to outline how further monitoring could occur under several different scenarios.  It also outlines potential equipment needs and general water chemistry parameters for enhanced monitoring programs.  The guideline ensures that information is collected in standardized way that allows comparison between sites, and over time.

Click here to get your copy of the Enclosed Bays and Inland Lakes Phosphorus Monitoring Guideline.

Nutrient Monitoring Website

Do you want to learn more about water quality along eastern Georgian Bay? Have you ever wondered who monitors the water around your house or cottage? We have developed a searchable map to show the major monitoring programs and activities in each area of the Biosphere Reserve.  Start at this link and make sure to select the ‘WATER QUALITY’ tab from the top left menu: http://ow.ly/10B5n2

The website has several different features and tools, allowing the user to explore nutrient conditions along the Bay.  The ‘Summary’ page allows the user to review the Ministry of Environment and Climate Change’s Lake Partner Program data.  You can simply view the total phosphorus results for your area, or more advanced users might wish to use the “Query” and/or “Chart” tools to analyze the data. The ‘Advanced’ page allows the user to review and compare three different nutrient monitoring programs.

Contact

Please contact David Bywater, program coordinator for further information at conservation @ gbbr.ca or 705.774.0978.

Shifting Water Quality Programs from Bacteria Monitoring to Phosphorus Monitoring

Currently, several organizations and volunteers along eastern Georgian Bay are participating in bacteria monitoring.  It is recommended that these organizations consider shifting to phosphorus monitoring to ensure consistency with other monitoring programs.  For example, the Township of the Georgian recently shifted their monitoring from bacteria to phosphorus based on a scientific review by Hutchinson Environmental Services Limited.  This review determined that single samples taken at one point in time do not indicate either the spatial or temporal extent of the levels of bacteria observed.  This is based on the fact that survival of E. coli in the recreational water environment is dependent on many factors, including temperature, exposure to sunlight, available nutrients, water conditions (e.g. pH and salinity), and competition from and predation by other micro-organisms.

It recommended that should organizations wish to continue with bacteria testing, it should happen in the framework of a scientific investigation focused on testing specific hypotheses on potential sources of contamination through a focused sampling program.  In addition, the examination of geometric means (i.e. statistical analysis) should be adopted rather than the interpretation of individual results.  For example, recreational sites (e.g. beaches) could be considered for bacteria monitoring as per the province’s Beach Management Guidance Document.

 Why Monitor Enclosed Bays and Inland Lakes?

  1. Enclosed bays and inland lakes have different environmental conditions than open areas. They may be connected to Georgian Bay with limited exchange of water due to convoluted channels or constricted openings and will have water chemistry characteristics that are more subject to upstream watershed influences. This will be especially true if there are major inflows (streams) or shoreline development within the enclosed bay.
  2. Inland lakes require total phosphorus data to help assess background concentrations relative to present day concentrations, which helps to show changes over time, and may help to identify conditions leading to algal blooms.
  3. Even in cases where the bay is considered to be ‘natural’ and relatively undeveloped, there are multiple stressors associated with all ecosystems that occur as a result of climate change, long-range transport of pollutants and the influx of invading species.
  4. Monitoring in these areas will help to understand the impacts of these stressors and complement upper tier monitoring (by provincial agencies) in nearshore areas.

Monitoring of enclosed bays and inland lakes could be overseen by municipalities and/or citizen volunteer groups (lower tier monitoring). The guideline will assist these groups to initiate monitoring programs (and locate sample sites, etc.) where monitoring activity is needed. Communication of the guidelines and association recommendations, protocols and maps, is ongoing, as well as collecting comments and requests for training in support of the Lake Partner Program and new “Enclosed Bays & Inland Lakes Phosphorus Monitoring Guideline.”

Background about the “Coordinated Nutrient Monitoring Program

Since 2014, the Georgian Bay Biosphere Reserve (GBBR) has worked with partners to develop a nutrient monitoring strategy for eastern Georgian Bay, recognizing the efforts of volunteers, townships, organizations, and agencies.

The overall objective is to improve the coordination and collection of nutrient information in eastern Georgian Bay.  The strategy also aims to ensure consistency in terms of what and how nutrients are measured, in light of current federal, provincial and regional government monitoring programs.

The project is funded by Environment Canada’s Lake Simcoe South Eastern Georgian Bay Clean Up Fund and the Lake Huron Framework for Community Action, with partner support from many organizations and other research agencies

Nutrient monitoring refers to total phosphorus (TP) monitoring, as it is the nutrient that controls the growth of algae and most living biota in the aquatic environment.

A key recommendation from the nutrient monitoring strategy is for organization and volunteers to continue and/or join the Ministry of Environment and Climate Change’s (MOECC) Lake Partner Program (LPP).  The LPP is an Ontario-wide, publically funded, free program that collects data about phosphorus, water clarity, calcium and temperature from volunteers.  Advantages to the LPP are that is facilitates comparisons with other organizations monitoring on the Bay, as well as MOECC and Environment Canada monitoring programs.

In 2015, GBBR conducted a review of the 15 nutrient monitoring programs within its boundaries. It determined that current Federal and Provincial monitoring programs are well established and effectively collect water quality data needed for open water and nearshore areas of eastern Georgian Bay.

The review found that monitoring conducted by volunteers, ratepayer associations and townships plays an important and complementary role, and would benefit from standardized guidelines and training, where necessary.

Recommendations from that review identified the need for increased monitoring in enclosed bays and inland lakes where there are no long-term programs in place. GBBR facilitated the preparation of an “Enclosed Bays and Inland Lakes Phosphorus Monitoring Guideline” for use by townships, ratepayer associations, and volunteers to facilitate their participation in nutrient monitoring in these areas, to help fill this gap.

The guideline presents a targeted number of recommended monitoring locations for organizations and/or volunteers to fulfill.  However, if there is greater capacity to add locations, the guideline presents a protocol for selecting and monitoring these sites.

Where there are additional concerns relating to algal blooms, the collection of additional water quality data should be determined on a case-by-case basis following a review of existing data. The Guideline includes a decision tree to help facilitate how further monitoring could occur under several different scenarios. If participants in monitoring decide to expand their activities beyond the Lake Partner Program, the guideline ensures that information is collected in standardized fashion.

Reports developed as part of GBBR’s “Coordinated Nutrient Monitoring Program”:

We appreciate funding support for the “Coordinated Nutrient Monitoring Program” from:

EcoAction+Acknowledgement_04newlogoIron City Fishing Club