Water Quality Introduction

As one of the most beautiful bodies of water in Canada, one of the most complex freshwater ecosystems in the world, and an extremely high value recreational and tourism destination, the water quality of Georgian Bay takes on special urgency. Parts of Georgian Bay are already quite stressed, and this requires ongoing vigilance so that we are able to catch even small changes in water conditions and address them promptly.

Microbial contaminants such as bacteria, parasites and viruses, along with sewage and grey water, as well as toxic chemicals such as pesticides, fertilizers, other agricultural run-off, and industrial effluents can all have a substantial negative effect on water quality, and often it doesn’t take long for those effects to appear. Apart from the obvious impact on water safety in terms of drinking water, bathing, swimming, and tourism appeal, poor water quality can also lead to nuisance and toxic algal blooms and cause mass die-offs of fish, other water creatures and birds. The highly sensitive food web can also be altered by such foreign substances, leading to the elimination of some species and the rise of others which are not always beneficial or desirable.

In the summer of 2014, for example, the City of Toledo on Lake Erie experienced a major bloom of blue-green algae, producing toxins that can be lethal to humans and animals alike. More than half a million Toledo residents who rely on Lake Erie’s waters for drinking, bathing and household use were prohibited from turning on their taps for three days.