Kennisis Lakes Water Quality Report
An Update Regarding Our Kennisis Water Quality and What Each of Us Can Do About It
If you were fortunate enough to have attended the KLCOA 2016 spring meeting, you would have heard about the recent water quality testing results that were presented by Dana Cruikshank from the Ontario Ministry of Environment and Climate Change (MOECC). The MOECC perform detailed water quality testing of the Kennisis Lakes approximately every 6-7 years (2002, 2008, 2015). This testing is in addition to annual testing done by Kennisis volunteers as part of the Lake Partners Program which is limited to water clarity and total phosphorus measurements.
The principle results from the MOECC 2015 testing showed:
- Most of the chemical parameters that are monitored show little change over 14 years.
- Total Phosphorus concentrations are still below 10 µg/L (0.001 mg/L) which likely precludes the formation of algal blooms.
- Total Phosphorus concentrations are slightly higher the last few years than previous historical data especially in the east basin of Little Kennisis.
- Ammonia concentrations have almost doubled in 2015 compared to 2008 and 2002.
- Nitrate Concentrations are lower in Kennisis in 2015 than 2008. 2015 Nitrate is higher in the west basin of Little Kennisis but lower than 2002 values.
- Nitrite concentrations are higher in 2015 in Little Kennisis especially in May 2015. Overall, the trend is to higher concentrations at all stations in 2015.
Although this may have been a cause for concern, the MOECC cautioned that the 2015 data should be verified and a follow-up 2016 MOECC testing program was recommended and implemented.
Compared to 2015, the Kennisis Lake data was very similar for the 2016 tests. The ammonia and nitrate issues were present in spring and summer but the numbers were much better for the fall testing. The farthest (northeast) basin in Little Kennisis continues to have poorer water quality results than the big lake and worse than the (west) Little Kennisis Basin near the bridge.
Phosphorus, ammonia and nitrates are normally indicators of poor septic health particularly in areas where there is no agricultural or industrial impact.
These results represent a sober warning that we need to take action to preserve our water quality on the Kennisis Lakes. As the representative from the MOECC reminded us, it’s entirely up to us to maintain the health of the water in our lakes – no one will do it for us.
The recent results from the MOECC strongly support the continued focus of the KLCOA on water quality management programs for our lakes. The KLCOA strongly supports education, monitoring programs and community action to maintain and improve our water quality. The KLCOA has focused on three stewardship areas that can have the greatest impact on the maintenance of our water health: Septic System Health, Shoreline Health and Naturalization, and Water Quality Monitoring.
Septic System Health
In our region of Haliburton, and since all of our properties are near shorelines, it is particularly important to maintain our septic systems properly because our soil and bedrock conditions are not always optimum for treating wastewater. Incomplete treatment due to a poorly functioning septic system can result in health risks and water quality problems that affect our water, your property value and wildlife.
Inadequate septic system wastewater treatment can allow excess nutrients to reach our lakes, degrading our water quality and promoting algae or weed growth. Algal blooms and abundant weeds not only make the lake unpleasant for swimming and boating, but they also affect drinking water quality and water quality for fish and wildlife habitat.
The most serious concern related to failing septic systems is human health risks. Hepatitis, dysentery and other diseases are spread by bacteria, viruses and parasites in wastewater. These disease-causing organisms, called pathogens, could make near-shore water unsafe for recreation.
KLCOA Septic Health Programs
- Septic System Education and Workshops
- Septic System Inspection Advocacy
Shoreline Health and Naturalization
Shorelines are unique and sensitive areas that warrant special attention. Due to their ecological, aesthetic and recreational value, protecting waterfront properties benefits all of us and the lake. A natural shoreline has important biological functions including acting as a filter, reducing the amount of pollutants that enter the lake, stabilizing soils to protect against erosion and providing vital habitat for fish and wildlife.
Shorelines are among the most productive environments on earth. The shallow water and first 10-15 metres (30-50 feet) of shore around lakes and rivers provide food and habitat essential to the survival of many species. In fact, 90% of all lake life is born, raised, and fed here. Plants, microorganisms, insects, amphibians, reptiles, birds, mammals and fish depend on the shoreline for survival.
Keeping shorelines natural is also one of the easiest ways to protect water quality and the value of waterfront properties. By filtering nutrients and reducing erosion, the quality of lake water can improve, providing cleaner, clearer water for drinking and recreational activities like swimming and boating.
The Functions of a Healthy Shoreline
- Helps to maintain overall water quality
- Prevents soil erosion
- Reduces impacts of flooding
- Provides wildlife with food and habitat
Common Signs of a Healthy Shoreline
- Abundant native vegetation
- Different levels of vegetation from taller trees to smaller shrubs and plants
- Dead trees and stones
- Birds, fish and other wildlife
- Minimizing shoreline modification and shoreline “hardening”
KLCOA Shoreline Health Programs
- Shoreline Health Education and Workshops
- Love Your Lake Shoreline Assessments and Individual Property Owner Reports
- Shoreline Restoration Advocacy and Projects
Water Quality Monitoring
KLCOA volunteers conduct water quality monitoring at 3 locations on our lakes each year as part of the Lake Partners Program. The Lake Partner Program is Ontario’s volunteer-based, water-quality monitoring program. Since 2002, the Ontario Ministry of the Environment has coordinated this lake monitoring program from the Dorset Environmental Science Centre (DESC). Each year, more than 600 volunteers monitor total phosphorus and water clarity in almost 550 inland lakes at over 800 sampling locations. Volunteers collect lake water samples and return them, postage paid, to DESC. Total phosphorus analyses are performed in the DESC Water Chemistry Laboratory. The resulting data are used by members of the public, partner agencies, government and academic researchers and private consultants to assess and report on water quality in lakes across Ontario. This total phosphorus and water clarity data are published each January on the provincial Lake Partner Program webpage: https://www.ontario.ca/data/ontario-lake-partner
A big shout out to our three volunteers – Julie Bramm, Tim Tibbs and Cathy Heppell. Many thanks for keeping the LPP water quality sampling active on Kennisis.
With the MOECC testing results from 2015 and 2016 indicating a declining trend in Kennisis water quality, the KLCOA, like many cottage associations, has approved some funding (~$1200 annually) to proceed with additional water quality monitoring on our lakes, starting this summer. The proposed testing will follow the lead of the MOECC tests and include, among other parameters, Dissolved Oxygen (DO) “profiles” (concentrations at every meter in the water column), total phosphorus, ammonia, nitrate, and nitrite. This will also be a volunteer-run initiative with costs allocated to the sample testing. The association will reach out to competent volunteers and when necessary, water quality professionals, to interpret our ongoing test results.
If you are interested in getting involved in the water quality sampling program please send an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org indicating your interest.
Additional information about our Kennisis water quality monitoring program will be available at the KCLOA spring and fall meetings and posted on the website. We also expect to update this report early in the Spring of 2018 after completing a comprehensive analysis of the test results for the water samples taken throughout 2017.