Funding will help with study of Lake Couchiching water quality
By Roberta Bell, Orillia Packet & Times
Lakehead University has launched a project to study the quality of the water in Lake Couchiching.
There isn’t as much research on Lake Couchiching as there is on the nearby and more polluted Lake Simcoe, said Sree Kurissery, the environmental microbiologist at Lakehead’s Orillia campus spearheading the initiative.
“We are interested in all the lakes. It’s not only when there is a problem,” she said.
The new research is being made possible with a $45,500 grant from the federal government’s Lake Simcoe/Southeastern Georgian Bay Clean-Up Fund.
The Lake Couchiching project, which Kurissery is working on with working with Nanda Kanavillil and Debbie Balika, focuses on raising awareness about the importance of maintaining healthy water systems.
Researchers have identified 10 sites along the shoreline of Lake Couchiching from which volunteers have been trained to take samples to study phosphorus and nitrogen levels as well dissolved oxygen, conductivity, pH, temperature and phytoplankton.
There is no indication Lake Couchiching is severely polluted, Kurissery said, but the new research will set a baseline that can be referred to in the future if need be.
“It’s not just thinking about drinking water,” she said. “We have to think about biodiversity. We have to think about preventing invasive species. We have to think about the recreational activities that we use the water systems for the fauna and flora living there and the human community.”
The research, which will foster a greater understanding of the importance of protecting surface water, will likely help inform future clean-up efforts, Simcoe North MP Bruce Stanton said, as projects that receive grants through the Lake Simcoe/Southeastern Georgian Bay Clean-Up Fund often do.
Or the projects reduce pollution, he said, as two other local ones are attempting to do.
Ramara Township was granted $55,000 to help reduce phosphorus inputs into Lagoon City canals, which have had problems with algae.
“A lot of that comes from runoff from improper use of fertilizer or using the wrong fertilizers as well as having too much runoff getting into the canals at one time,” Stanton said.
The township is putting out barrels to collect rainwater so during heavy downpours, it won’t spill rapidly into the canals, he said.
The Tiny Tonwship-based based project to improve the health of Lafontaine Creek was granted $26,000, which is going toward converting old cattle pastures into wetlands.
“The more you can expand wetland areas, the greater capacity you have for filtering surface water,” Stanton said.
Originally just the Lake Simcoe Clean-Up Fund when it launched with $30 million and a five-year mandate in 2009, it was renewed in 2013 with $29 million and expanded to include water bodies to the north and east that also drain into Georgian Bay.
The local projects that recently received grants were three of 32 to benefit from a $7.6-million second round of funding announced Jan. 16.
The first round of funding — $8.6 million for 26 projects — was announced in April 2014.
Water quality is just starting to improve in Lake Simcoe, Stanton said.
“We’re starting to get some lake trout, natural lake trout, reproducing. That wasn’t happening, even going back to the 1970s,” Stanton said. “It’s starting to come back. It takes a whole breadth of practices and measures to get that going in the right direction.”
When the funds announced in 2013 run out in 2018, there will still be work to do, he said.
“This is going to be ongoing. Lake Simcoe is a huge watershed and it’s a critical watershed, obviously, for so many municipalities and hundreds of thousands of people,” he said.