Posted by: Vicki Burns | September 29, 2014

Algae on the Winnipeg River, Ontario Government’s Response

Over the past few years I have devoted much time and energy to learning about what is causing the blue-green algae blooms on Lake Winnipeg and in many other lakes around North America. It is an increasing threat to freshwater lakes on our continent and, in fact, around the world. Now I’m focussing my efforts on promoting the solutions because there are good solutions already out there but they need to be adopted with much greater speed and vigour.

Evening on the Winnipeg River

Evening on the Winnipeg River

Since I was a child, I’ve loved our lakes, swimming in them, canoeing on them, watching the wildlife that lives in and around them. Being by the shores of water seems to strengthen my connection to nature and that connection really does nurture my sense of well-being. So a couple of years ago when my husband and I were fortunate enough to acquire our own place on the Winnipeg River just downstream of Lake of the Woods, I felt very blessed indeed. However shortly after taking possession of the place, we had blue-green algae show up right around our dock and our water intake line. My work on blue-green algae had suddenly become very personal.

Algae on the Winnipeg River Sept. 2014

Algae on the Winnipeg River Sept. 2014

This year we recently had algae congregating around our dock , although we’re not sure if it is cyanobacteria or other, more benign species of algae. I contacted the Environment Officer with the Ontario Ministry of the Environment in Kenora and was very pleased when he arranged to come out the next day and take some samples. The samples are being analyzed in Toronto and apparently will tell us what species of algae are present and if it does include cyanobacteria, whether the toxin microcystin is present. It’s impressive that the Ontario government is doing this type of testing at home owner’s request. The results should be back within another week or so and I’ll post them in case you’re interested.
The blue-green algae problem is a measurable one – we can collect data on how much phosphorus is getting into our lakes every year and we can measure whether there is a decrease in those amounts based on various actions and interventions we take. So its reassuring to know that the Ontario government is facilitating the collection of this data. Knowledge is power and the more power we can bring to bear on this challenge the better.



  1. Water is sacred and essential to all life. We need to protect it.

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