Lake Water Quality Testing

You may have seen volunteers out on the lake and wondered, “What are they doing with that long piece of wood and a black and white disk on a rope?” They are the Lake Partner Program volunteers and they're collecting information about the water quality of our beautiful lake.

The Lake Partner Program is a volunteer-based water-quality monitoring program for Ontario’s inland lakes. The Ministry of the Environment, Conservation and Parks (MOECP) coordinates this program in partnership with the Federation of Ontario Cottagers’ Association (FOCA). Each year, more than 600 volunteers monitor water quality in over 500 lakes. Volunteers receive a kit that includes everything they need to collect the information and report back their findings to the Ministry.

Each year in May, the team gathers water samples, which involves lowering a weighted bottle into the water, filtering it using equipment included in the kit, filling a sample jar and test tubes with this lake water and returning the samples to the Ministry for analysis.

Twice a month, our volunteers go to two specific spots on the lake, one at the north end and one at the south, to perform water temperature and clarity tests. That’s where the long piece of wood the metal disk comes in. The black and white disk is called a Secchi Disk and it’s used to measure clarity. It’s lowered into the water until it can only just be seen. Using measured marks on the rope it’s attached to they can determine how deep the disk is and thus the clarity of the water. It’s not an exact science as aspects like how sunny or cloudy it is, and how calm or choppy the water is, can affect how clearly they can see the disk. For this reason, they try to do their testing on days when the sun is out and the water is calm so the results are as consistent as possible. There’s a thermometer attached to the long piece of wood. They've found over the years that the south end of our lake tends to be a little bit warmer than the north end and that the north end is just a touch clearer than the south.

Canada’s lakes and rivers are an excellent indicator of climate change. Scientists learn a lot by looking at annual freeze and thaw dates over the years. Our volunteers help them by picking a specific spot on the lake and taking a note of when it freezes over and when it thaws.

Our lake is not only beautiful, but also one with excellent water quality. The most recent Cataraqui Conservation Authority report has our lake as low vulnerability in all areas:

  • Eutrophication – The lake has low nutrient levels, which is a good thing. High levels can lead to excess algae growth, lower oxygen levels and reduced biodiversity.
  • Invasive Species - We have no aquatic species not native to the environment (i.e. Zebra Mussels).
  • Acidification – pH levels and alkaline conditions are all very good.

We’re lucky to have had so many dedicated Desert Lake property owners who’ve been volunteering to collect information over the years. The next time you see them out on the lake, give them a wave!

The first property owners to conduct water quality testings on our lake were Robin and Nancy Turkington, who are no longer residents on the lake. The task was later taken on by John Sherbino and Laurie Gordon who are residents near Mitchell Creek. Morgan Pryce, Frank Lovett and the two ladies at Mitchell Creek Outfitters also pitched in gracefully. Then Donna-Marie and Bryan Bowers took on the responsibility followed by north end cottagers, Tony and Debra Loureiro. Starting in 2021, Alice and Jonathan Price will be conducting the testing to ensure that we retain a watchful eye over this critical data collection. A special thank you to all of our volunteers over the years!

1 comment

Many thanks to all the volunteers that keep our beautiful lake what it is today, your efforts do not go unrecognized.

Andy Bryson August 07, 2023

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