Reducing Phosphorus Loads to Lake Simcoe and South-eastern Georgian Bay

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As of March 2016, stewardship projects supported by the Lake Simcoe and South-eastern Georgian Bay Clean-Up Fund since 2008 were preventing an estimated 5365 kilograms of phosphorus from reaching Lake Simcoe and its tributary rivers.

Similarly, stewardship projects were preventing an estimated 658 kilograms of phosphorus from reaching South-eastern Georgian Bay and its tributary rivers.

Both Lake Simcoe and South-eastern Georgian Bay have targets for a reduction of 2000 kilograms of phosphorus per year by 2017.

Cumulative, estimated reduction in the amount of phosphorus reaching Lake Simcoe, 2008 to 2015 and South-eastern Georgian Bay, 2013 to 2015 due to stewardship projects

Column charts - See long description below

Long description

The column charts present estimates of the annual amount of phosphorus prevented from entering Lake Simcoe's and South-eastern Georgian Bay's watersheds from 2008 to 2015. For Lake Simcoe, an estimated 5365 kilograms of phosphorus has been diverted from the lake between 2008 and 2015. For South-eastern Georgian Bay, an estimated 658 kilograms of phosphorus has been prevented from reaching the bay since 2013.

Data for this chart
Cumulative, estimated reduction in the amount of phosphorus reaching Lake Simcoe, 2008 to 2015 and South-eastern Georgian Bay, 2013 to 2015 due to stewardship projects
LakeYearNon-point source phosphorus removal / habitat restoration
(kilograms of phosphorus)
Point-source reduction
(kilograms of phosphorus)
Estimated phosphorus removal over all years
(kilograms of phosphorus)
Lake Simcoe2008–2011-1105-1162-2267
Lake Simcoe2012-550>0-2817
Lake Simcoe2013-230-2840
Lake Simcoe2014-12010-4041
Lake Simcoe2015-13240-5365
South-eastern Georgian Bay2013-210-21
South-eastern Georgian Bay2014-99-5-125
South-eastern Georgian Bay2015-5340-658

Note: Numbers may not sum due to rounding.

Download data file (Excel/CSV; 1.21 KB)

How this indicator was calculated

Note: The estimate of reduced phosphorus load represents projects with final reports submitted by March 2016. Figures for each project type are rounded and then summed to give the total.
Source: Environment and Climate Change Canada (2016) Lake Simcoe / South-eastern Georgian Bay Clean-Up Fund Office.

Lake Simcoe is the largest lake in southern Ontario outside of the Great Lakes. Located north of Toronto, the lake is a major recreational and agricultural area, and supplies drinking water to eight municipalities. Rapidly increasing population growth, urban development, and fewer, but larger, farms with more crops and livestock has resulted in elevated phosphorus levels in the lake. Phosphorus is a key nutrient for plant growth in lakes, and an oversupply of phosphorus can cause nuisance aquatic plants and algae to grow to levels resulting in changes to the types of fish living in the lake. Excess phosphorus in Lake Simcoe is causing oxygen levels in the lake to drop to levels that are affecting fish and wildlife populations and overall water quality. Scientists estimate the annual phosphorus load going into the lake has more than doubled to 77 tonnes of phosphorus per yearFootnote [1] since the major settlement and land clearing that took place around Lake Simcoe in the 1800s.

Similar to Lake Simcoe, water quality and ecosystem health in sections of South-eastern Georgian Bay are under threat from shoreline development introducing excessive inputs of phosphorus into the bay. These stresses range from agriculture in the Nottawasaga Valley watershed to inputs from the coastal communities of Collingwood and Wasaga Beach to the Severn Sound watershed, which encompasses a combination of small urban and rural areas with a permanent population of approximately 110 000 people and a summer population of 300 000 people. South-eastern Georgian Bay encompasses the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO)-designated Georgian Bay Biosphere Reserve.

The Lake Simcoe / South-eastern Georgian Bay Clean-Up Fund was created to provide financial and technical support to help accomplish projects designed to reduce phosphorus inputs into the lakes. Phosphorus-reduction projects funded include stream bank erosion control measures, stewardship programs, stopping livestock from directly accessing water courses, manure storage, planting trees and plants along river corridors, containing milk-house washwater, stormwater pond retrofits, and creating/restoring wetlands.

The work to reduce phosphorus loads to Lake Simcoe is being led by the Province of Ontario, working with partners such as the Lake Simcoe Region Conservation Authority, local stakeholders, municipalities and other partners. Environment and Climate Change Canada's Lake Simcoe / South-eastern Georgian Bay Clean-Up Fund contributes to Ontario's overall goals for the lake by providing funding for priority clean-up projects at the community, lake-wide or watershed-wide level.

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This indicator supports the measurement of progress towards the long-term goal of the 2016–2019 Federal Sustainable Development Strategy: Clean and healthy lakes and rivers support economic prosperity and the well-being of Canadians.

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