Water Quality

No doubt, the one thing that brings all the residents of Lake Joseph North together is the lake itself. We enjoy it in many ways from swimming to boating, water skiing to canoeing and much, much, more. And the best part? The water quality at the north end of Lake Joseph is the greatest in Muskoka! Couple this with the remarkable clarity and minimal presence of algae and aquatic vegetation along the shoreline and you can see why this lake is holds a special place among its residents, cottagers and visitors.  

In order to appreciate the importance of water quality and to understand the issues, here are some key insights that residents should be aware of and that LJNA takes seriously:

Development

There are a couple reasons why the water quality is so high in the north end of Lake Joseph including the lake’s location at the top of the watershed and the fact that until relatively recently, the north end of Lake Joseph was rather undeveloped compared with the south end of the lake and the other two big Muskoka lakes (Rosseau and Muskoka). This began to change with the completion of the 400 series highway up the west side of the lakes during the late 1990s and early 2000s. The historical high quality standard is a big reason why cottagers and residents at the north of Lake Joseph remain vigilant regarding water quality.

Phosphorous

Lake Joseph, like most lakes located on the Canadian Shield, as oligotrophic - meaning the lakes have a naturally low nutrient level. This gives the lake its clarity and accounts for the minimal presence of algae and aquatic vegetation along the shoreline. Yet, the low-nutrient status of Lake Joseph also means that the aquatic ecosystem is also very sensitive to slight fluctuations in phosphorous content.

Phosphorous is the limiting nutrient in oligotrophic lakes. The low concentration of phosphorous in the lake translates into low levels of ‘food’ for aquatic plants. If more phosphorous is added, more aquatic plants will grow, reducing the oxygen content and disrupting the ecosystem conditions that most species of invertebrate and fish rely on.

Compounding the issue is the fact that the water in Lake Joseph changes very slowly, taking several years to entirely flush out. In other words, any extra phosphorous that is added to the lake can only be removed through natural processes very slowly. It is therefore critical that cottagers and residents on Lake Joseph carefully monitor the concentration of phosphorous in the lake and strictly manage the amount of phosphorous entering the lakes.

Testing for water quality

In 2002, the Muskoka Lakes Association (MLA) began sampling sites in Hamer Bay as part of their Water Quality Initiative. Testing for phosphorous and bacteria (especially E. coli) has continued in the bay every year since. In 2004, sites in Gordon Bay were sampled and has since continued intermittently as needed. Sampling was also started in Stanley Bay in 2004, and has been continued every year since.

Copies of the MLA’s Water Quality Reports, which include area summaries of the testing done at the north end of the lake can be obtained at PDF downloads from the MLA’s website. 

Worrying data

Over the last decade, Hamer Bay has been the only area at the north end of Lake Joseph that has demonstrated worrying data. Hamer Bay has exceeded the acceptable upper limit of phosphorous concentrations in nine of the thirteen years since testing began by the MLA.

In the fall of 2012, the LJNA and MLA partnered to initiate a study of the stream entering Hamer Bay from Rocky Crest Golf Course property (the outlet of this stream enters the west side of Hamer Bay Marina). The findings of this study are forthcoming for the winter of 2015.

Volunteer

The LJNA is also very eager to enlist more volunteers in the water testing program. If you are available to collect water samples one weekend per month between May and August, please contact us at info@ljna.org.