Water Quality

When you get down to it, one of the major reasons why people come to Loughborough Lake is because of, well, the lake. The water is the basis for why people build cottages and homes here, buy boats and other toys and choose to come back and take their annual vacation or even spend their lives beside it. There are obviously many other reasons why we come to the lake but the water is probably key to why we are here. So it follows that lake water quality is really important to peoples’ enjoyment of the lake.

When the Lougborough Lake Association was researching the idea of preparing a "lake planning" study in 2009, water quality was the biggest or most important factor reported in other lake reports that we read. After considerable discussion, the association decided not to do a "lake planning" study; there were a number of reasons why we chose not to undertake it – cost, value for effort, and a lack of enthusiasm were amongst the reasons we did not go with it. However we all agreed as to the importance of water quality and that understanding has directed some of the association activities this year.

Recently, the lake association has increased the number of spots that water sampling is being taken. Up to this point, we had a couple of dedicated volunteers, each taking one sample, one in the West Basin and one in the East. We have increased the number of samples being taken to five – now three are being taken in the more complex East Basin and two are being done in the West Basin. The Ontario Government MOE has agreed to provide analysis of the samples that we take.

Another action that was taken was to enlist the help of a fellow Loughborough Lake resident and association member (he has even agreed to become an association director!) to interpret and explain what is happening to the water quality. Mike Hulley is a consulting engineer and associate professor with RMC and he has had much experience working on water quality problems. It was obvious that increasing the amount of water quality data being collected but not having anybody who could explain it was not going to work; we are grateful to have Mike’s help.

Recently, Mike and long-time Loughborough Lake resident Karl Montgomery got out on the West Basin and did some water temperature and dissolved oxygen tests. The following is what Mike noted:

"The deeper you go in the lake, the cooler that it becomes. Between 10 and 15 metres, there is a temperature drop or thermocline. There is also a reduction in the amount of dissolved oxygen in the water at this same level. It is below 5 mg/L at the deeper levels.  Mike notes that the commonly accepted threshold for trout was 5 mg/L, and apparently this threshold has since been raised to 6 mg/L. Although there are still lake trout being caught, this finding would suggest that trout may not be thriving."

The cause of this is not known - it could be also related to deposition and decomposition of organic material. It could also be seasonal. Oxygen levels in the deeper parts of the lake should improve in the fall as the surface temperatures cool and the higher oxygen content surface waters can blend with the lower level waters. We also do not have a history of oxygen levels in the lake – we cannot compare this result with what has happened in the past. We hope to go out on the lake again later in the fall and do further tests. Experience and knowledge can help us better understand the lake we so enjoy.

Dishwasher Detergent & Phosphates
A recent article in Time magazine noted that in the Spokane River (in Idaho and Washington states) wastewater treatment plants, one third of the phosphates coming to it were from dishwasher detergents. The rest of the phosphates were coming from fertilizers and human waste. Although phosphates have been removed from liquid dishwashing detergents - the kind that you use in the sink - they still remain in dishwasher detergents because of their ability to remove dirt and keep it suspended in the water. Canada has a plan to legislate phosphates in dishwasher detergents to no more than 5% this year, but it looks like that will be deferred, pending more study. 

Phosphates are nutrients, encouraging plant and algae growth in the water. Decomposing plant and algae matter will lead to less oxygen content in the water. So - if you have a dishwasher and you are on Loughborough Lake, please consider using a low dose phosphate detergent. You can purchase 0% phosphate dishwasher detergents.