Lake Stewardship

Lake Stewardship means protecting the environment for generations to come by using voluntary and often non-legislated means. Legislation, regulation and policies can only go so far in protecting the environment. Landowners, cottagers, year round residents, local businessmen and local municipal government in conjunction with provincial and federal ministries shape the way environmental protection is carried out. All lake residents can play a role in environmental protection through support, participation and acknowledgement of stewardship efforts.

By protecting our shorelines and water quality, you will help guard the area for future generations and also protect your investment as a property owner or resident of McKellar Township and its lakes and rivers.

Your Association is also addressing Lake Stewardship. Retaining and even improving the recreational/swimming quality of our lake is beneficial to our enjoyment and retaining property values. The state of health of a lake can be measured by testing the clarity of the lake using Secchi Disc readings, testing the Phosphorus levels and by obtaining samples of the water for bacterial contamination. Our volunteers are doing all three.

Water Clarity

Clarity is just one of the many water quality indicators. Several different factors can control the water clarity in lakes. The growth of algae is the most commonly recognized influence. More nutrients in the lake (especially phosphorus) will promote algal growth, and hence reduce water clarity. Some algae is good because it oxygenates the water. Too much is not good because it contributes to turbidity, slime on rocks and a decrease of fish population. In many lakes, as in the case of Manitouwabing, it is common to have water clarity reduced by naturally dissolved organic carbon (DOC) that gives lakes a "tea-stained appearance. The real value in obtaining yearly readings is in the monitoring over many years to determine if water clarity is improving or degrading.

We have been taking Secchi Disc readings for many years now as part of the Ministry of Environment's Lake Partner Program. Between 1997 and 2001 we had fairly constant readings from 2.1 3.1 meters at the west end of the lake which was the only part officially tested. In the past eight years we have had up to six volunteers and have been able to cover a greater area of Manitouwabing Lake including Robinson Lake. The readings have been in the range of 1.4 3.1 m. Based on Secchi Disc readings our lake would be classified eutrophic (enriched with higher levels of nutrients) but this is mostly due to the tea colour caused by the higher tannin content of our lake which results from organic matter being washed into the lake from swamps, tree foliage and run off from construction sites and excessively cleared shoreline.

The association's volunteers are continuing the dipping every two weeks from May to September in six areas.

Phosphorus Levels.

Concerns that relate to the nutrient status of lakes are best addressed through the annual collection of total phosphorus (TP) data.  In 2000 the phosphorus level at the west end of the lake was at 4g/L which classified the lake as "Oligotrophic" (low enrichment level) according to the Ministry of Environment, supporting that the higher tannin content of our lake gives us low clarity readings. An interpretation obtained from the Ministry of Environment in 2000 indicated that Lake Manitouwabing was a fairly healthy lake from the results of the two measured criteria [Secchi Disc and Phosphorus level].

Samples taken of from six to12 locations [depending on the number of volunteers], including Robinson Lake, since 1998 has shown on average 12g/L which classified the lake as "Mesotrophic" (moderately enriched with some nutrients).

Over the years we had a few "spikes in the Jones Bay/Longhorn area [37g/L] and in the McKellar Bay area [47g/L]. It is suspected that a reason for this could be that in shallower bays there is more decay under the ice in the winter which uses more Oxygen and this releases the phosphorus from the sediment.

There appears to be a slight trend that phosphorus levels are increasing in Lake Manitouwabing. We can control the build-up by reducing the importation of phosphorus into our lake.  How?  By reducing excessive tree clearing near the shore and not having a lawn right to the lake, by avoiding the use of fertilizer, preventing surface runoff from your property into the lake, repairing faulty septic beds, regularly inspecting and pumping septic tanks [every three to five years depending on usage], using low Phosphorus cleaning material, reduce the use of dish washers and laundry washing machines and protecting your septic system from too much water.
Lakes with levels over 20g/L are classified "Eutrophic" (highly enriched). At phosphorus levels of over 15 to 20 g/L, the algae levels rise and build up on boat hulls and shoreline, water starts to taste and smell bad, weed problems increase, there is more summer and winter fish kill and the general water quality decreases.
A planning consultant stated at a FOCA meeting: "Municipalities have little or no scientific knowledge and their only interest is increasing the tax base until it is too late."  The Lake Plan should be part of the Official Plan for a Municipality in order to control water quality, percentage natural shoreline, boating h.p., etc.  It would be beneficial if members in the high result areas could become more vigilant and determine possible causes for the high Phosphorus levels.

We continue sampling every spring and submitting the three water samples from about six different sampling sites.

Bacteriological Concerns

Bacteriological testing has always been an important issue for many lake stewards but, since the Walkerton tragedy, it has become a vital subject for anyone. With regards to human health, people look toward surface water for bacterial contamination as most effects of human activities occur here.

Are the bacterial levels found safe? The Provincial standard for safe drinking water is zero for E.coli and ten for coliforms. For swimming it is 100 E.coli and Ontario usually closes beaches to swimming when the levels reach 100. It should be noted that the provincial standard is an average across the entire province. 100 E.coli in swimming water is high, especially when kids are frolicking in the water and gulping it down. This may be acceptable in beaches near industrialized cities where people don't swim in the lake often, but it should not be acceptable for our "pristine, cottaging lake.

In order to observe any changes to the lake's bacteriological quality the Association has been submitting lake water samples since 2000.  From the charts found in the "Water Quality Results" on this website there were a few 0 levels in 2000 and 2001, but none since then and bacteriological levels appear to be rising.  We encourage the membership to be proactive and disinfect all drinking water taken from the rivers and lakes, no matter how clean it looks.
Water may contain invisible, but harmful organisms (bacteria, fungi, viruses, protozoans and cysts) which can cause nausea, typhoid and hepatitis.  Giardia, a protozoa causes "Beaver Fever" and is carried in the feces of many domestic and wild animals including the beaver and contaminates the water.  It is suggested that you have your treated drinking water tested at least three times a year. Bottles to test treated lake or well water can be picked up at the Parry Sound Health Unit at the Parry Sound Mall and returned there for testing by the provincial laboratory (no cost).

The Association samples various sites and has the water tested for the presence of coliforms and E.coli.  Normally E.coli is not a problem, but because they are intestinal bacteria, they can be accompanied by other serious pathogens.

Children, the elderly and people with weakened immune systems are most likely to develop illnesses or infections after swimming in polluted water.  The most common illness associated with swimming in water polluted by sewage is gastroenteritis.  It occurs in a variety of forms that can have one or more of the following symptoms: nausea, vomiting, stomachache, diarrhea, headache and fever.  Other minor illnesses associated with swimming include ear, eye, nose, and throat infections, rashes and swimmer's itch.  In highly polluted water, swimmers may occasionally be exposed to more serious diseases like dysentery, hepatitis, cholera, and typhoid fever.  Most of these diseases require ingestion (drinking or swallowing) of the infected water, although some can be transmitted through wounds exposed to water.

MLCA members should not be overly concerned with E.coli results.  The tests indicate if there are problems and where the problems are.  Cottagers should be able to take precautionary measures based on the identified hot spots.  They can decide on the use and treatment of lake water and where lower risk areas are for swimming and playing in the water.  The tests have also identified in the past a pollution problem due to a leaky septic system.

E.coli are used as an indicator organism.  We test for it for two reasons: 1) they are easy to grow in a laboratory and indicate sewage contamination and 2) they are not normally found in lakes and when found indicate pollution from human and animal excreta.

"Overgrowth" as indicated under the charts found in the "Water Quality Results"  refers to large numbers of non-coliform bacteria, which also grow on the plates in the laboratory during incubation and can interfere with detection of coliforms.  It has been found that some non-coliform bacteria can actually kill off or inhibit the growth of the coliforms and E.coli and thus the numbers counted are less than actually present in the sampled water.

Please ensure that your septic system is functioning properly and that septic tanks are pumped when required, usually every three to five years depending on usage.  Swimming safety is one of our primary concerns and overall quality of water including clarity, ecological balance, etc., should also be everyone's concern.