The chemical water quality of lake nipissing 2003 2004
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The Chemical Water Quality of Lake Nipissing 2003-2004. Andrew Paterson Dorset Environmental Science Centre Environmental Monitoring and Reporting Branch Ontario Ministry of the Environment. Canadian Shield. Ontario’s Inland Lakes. ~260,000 lakes majority on Canadian Shield

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The Chemical Water Quality of Lake Nipissing 2003-2004

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The Chemical Water Quality of Lake Nipissing 2003-2004

Andrew Paterson

Dorset Environmental Science Centre

Environmental Monitoring and Reporting Branch

Ontario Ministry of the Environment

Canadian Shield

Ontario’s Inland Lakes

  • ~260,000 lakes

  • majority on Canadian Shield

  • water quality is generally good

  • ↑ water quality = ↑ value

“A lake is the landscape’s most beautiful and expressive feature.

It is earth’s eye; looking into which the beholder measures the depth of [his] own nature.”

- Henry David Thoreau (Walden)

The economic value of good water quality in Ontario

  • ~2 million adult anglers per year

  • $1.7 billion on goods related to fishing

  • residents own ~1.2 million recreational boats

  • 5.6 million visitors engaged in resource-based tourism

    • (50% participating in water sports, 39% hunting/fishing)

  • $1.1 billion in spending from resource-based tourism

  • commercial fisheries (~$42.5 million)

(Multiple sources, 1998, 1999, 2002, 2003: Min. Natural Resources, Provincial Auditor of Ontario, Min. Tourism and Recreation)


  • In 2002, MOE Northern Region staff submitted a request to the Environmental Monitoring and Reporting Branch (EMRB) to undertake a water quality survey of Lake Nipissing

  • Surveys had been completed in 1971, 1974 and 1975 (no summary report), and 1988, 1989 and 1990 (Neary & Clark 1992)


  • EMRB staff at Dorset coordinated a volunteer-based sampling program for 2003 and 2004

  • Results of this survey were compiled and compared with the 1988-90 survey in a report co-authored by Clark, Paterson, DeSellas & Ingram (2010)

Clark, Paterson, DeSellas

& Ingram (2010) 57 pp.

Neary & Clark (1992) 66 pp.




Lake Nipissing

~82,200 ha


Lake Nipissing and its watershed

Watershed area : Lake area = ~16 : 1


  • In 2003-04 water samples were collected from a series of 26 stations that were originally sampled in the early 1970s and again in 1988-90

  • In all 3 surveys, samples were collected during the ice-free season:

    • in 1988-90 by a Dorset field technician monthly

    • in 2003-04 by volunteers on a roughly monthly schedule (3 stations were not sampled and the other stations were sampled 5-12 times)

Lake Nipissing showing the 26 stations that were sampled in 1988-90 and re-sampled in 2003-04 (stations 2, 3 and 18 were not re-sampled). Also note that Cache Bay (#7), Callander Bay (#9) and West Bay (#19) are somewhat isolated from the main body of the lake.


  • Water chemistry from the 1970s and 1988-90 surveys was analyzed by a commercial lab

  • Results from the 2003-04 survey were completed by the MOE water chemistry lab at Dorset

We know that the commercial lab values for total phosphorus were generally lower than the MOE Dorset lab results.


  • A number of water chemistry parameters were measured in the 2003-04 survey including:

    • pH, alkalinity, aluminum, calcium (Ca), chloride (Cl), colour, conductivity, dissolved inorganic carbon, dissolved organic carbon (DOC), iron, potassium, magnesium, manganese, sodium, ammonium (NH4), nitrate/nitrite (NO3), total Kjeldahl nitrogen (TKN), phosphorus (TP), silica, and sulphate (SO4)

Acid Rain: pH, alkalinity, sulphate

Nutrients: Nitrogen & Phosphorus

Results from a whole-lake experiment conducted at the Experimental Lakes Area, near Kenora, ON in 1973

Carbon & Nitrogen only


Carbon, Nitrogen


Phosphorus is a nutrient that is the limiting factor “controlling” algal growth in aquatic ecosystems

Long-term declines in phosphorus – Dorset A lakes

Regional trend

Relative trends

Average decline in TP = 28%

Large increases in nitrate between 1988-90 and 2003-04

Seasonal nitrate in Callander Bay






Other interesting results

  • Is road salt affecting the lake?

  • Is dissolved organic carbon (DOC) changing?

  • Are calcium concentrations changing?

Are the Lake Nipissing biota healthy?


  • Acid rain: both pH and sulphate (SO4) concentration have decreased

  • Nutrients:

    • Total Kjeldahl nitrogen (TKN) has not changed, but nitrate/nitrite (NO3) and ammonium (NH4) have increased

    • Total phosphorus (TP) has increased, but this may be a lab artefact (levels are lower than the 1970s)


  • Other parameters:

    • Chloride (Cl) has increased

    • Dissolved Organic Carbon (DOC) has not changed

    • Calcium (Ca) has decreased

Thank You

Are there any questions?

MOE – North Bay Office

  • District staff proactively inspect municipal STPs to ensure compliance with MOE issued Certificates of Approval. The district also inspects large sub-surface sewage systems that have a flow rate of >10,000 LPD (usually associated with resorts).

  • District staff conduct comprehensive inspections of hazardous waste generators, waste sites and industrial air dischargers, water users taking >50,000 LPD – all to ensure compliance with MOE issued approvals and permits.

MOE – North Bay Office

  • District Environmental Officers respond to spills and other environmental incidents to ensure proper clean-up and compliance with Ontario’s environmental legislation such as the Environmental Protection Act, Ontario Water Resources Act, Pesticides Act.

  • District staff also conduct initial sampling for suspected Blue Green Algae complaints and forward results to the local Health unit for follow up action (if positive)

MOE – North Bay Office

  • District staff conduct spring phosphorus sampling and in some cases dissolved oxygen surveys.

  • MOE also operates a 24 hour spill reporting center – 1-800-268-6060

Nitrogen Components

TN = TKN + NO3 = TIN + TON


TON = TN – (NO3 + NH4) = TKN – NH4

TIN = NO3 + NH4

Observed Changes over Time

* - significant difference at P<0.05

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