Our Lake Stewards

A Day in the Life of our Lake Stewards

(submitted by Mike Costigan)

On October 10, 2022 I had the pleasure of spending 3 plus hours on Lake Manitou with our lake stewards completing the final water testing for the year. The following is a little look into what these dedicated volunteers do as part of the LMAA’s stewardship of Lake Manitou.

What do Lake Steward’s Do?

The lake steward’s role with the LMAA is two-fold: They ensure that markers are put out and taken in annually on identified shoals around Lake Manitou. Secondly, they complete the water testing for the Lake Partner Program (LPP) on a monthly basis from May to October each year in two different locations. (East & West Basin of the lake) Each month the samples are submitted to the testing facility in Dorset Ontario where the results are determined and posted to a public database. Historical data on Lake Manitou dates back to 1996.

Left- David Kains and Right - Ken Stewart

Our Lake Stewards

We are very fortunate to have two very dedicated volunteer Lake Stewards. David Kains and Ken Stewart for the last 12 years now have tirelessly continued the work of Alec Lochead, and before him, John & Peter Edward, our original lake stewards who managed the LPP for the LMAA. 

What is the LPP?

What originally began in 1996 as a collaboration between FOCA, the Lake of the Woods District Stewardship Organization, and the District of Muskoka, is now the largest and longest running program of its kind in North America. Today these samples are tested by the Ministry of Environment Conservation and Parks (MECP) for total phosphorus, calcium, chloride, and water clarity. In Ontario, approximately 550 lakes are monitored each year by 600 volunteers!

Buoy marking a shoal.
Preparing the Secchi disk before lowering into the lake.

David is about to lower the Secchi disk into Lake Manitou and get the reading.

Ken is lowering the water sample bottle down to the level of the Secchi depth reading

What is tested?

Phosphorus: It is an essential element for organisms in the aquatic systems they inhabit. Phosphorus controls algal growth in most Ontario Lakes. Gathering water samples to be tested for total phosphorus helps track lake conditions over time. An increase in phosphorus can stimulate algal growth which can result in reduced water clarity, and/or deep-water oxygen levels, and increased frequency and size of algal blooms. Phosphorus data has been collected on Lake Manitou since 1995!

Chloride: Chloride is a natural component of freshwater environments. An excess of chloride can have serious implications for lake dwelling organisms. In Ontario, the use of road salt is a common contributor of chloride as it makes its way into waterways via runoff, melting snow, and vehicular movement. In 2015, chloride was added to the parameters monitored by the LPP to understand the possible effects of road salt application.

Calcium: This is a vital nutrient that many organisms rely on including mollusks, crayfish, and water fleas. In 2008, the LPP started monitoring calcium in water samples. Decades of acid rain loading and logging have led to a decline in calcium in many Ontario Shield lakes, which is expected to get worse in the face of climate change. Calcium levels below 1.5mg/L have been found to limit reproduction in these organisms and therefore a cause for concern.

Water Clarity: Lake Stewards track water clarity using Secchi disks. Water clarity or Secchi depth, corresponds to the depth at which light penetrates the lake. Factors such as biological turbidity (algae), non-biological turbidity (rough waters stirring up sediment) and dissolved organic carbon(DOC)can have a direct effect on light penetration.

Generally, lakes become less transparent with more algal growth! Water clarity can be influenced by several factors such as shoreline development, climate change, acid rain, invasive species like zebra mussels. DOC, also known as non-biological turbidity, gives lakes a tea-stained appearance. DOC enters lakes from runoff over soils and is often related to the presence of wetlands in the lake’s watershed. Understanding a lake’s water clarity, and how it changes over time, can help identify that changes may be occurring in a lake’s water quality.

Where are the samples taken for the LPP?

Over the years technology has help with pinpointing the accuracy of locations where the testing samples are taken. David has the locations below entered into his GPS.


  • East Basin (Sandfield)
    W 081 degrees 57.958’
    N 45 degrees 43.761’

  • West Basin
    W 082 degrees 03.945’
    N 45 degrees 47.697’


The ideal day for getting the samples is a calm clear day! With Mother Nature permitting, samples are taken in these two locations 6 times per year. These two gentlemen make a serious time commitment on all our behalf’s in continuing this important data collection. Their efforts are crucial in monitoring the changes that are happening in Lake Manitou more so now that we are in the grips of climate change!


Thank you, David & Ken! In the next edition of “Wind Swept” we hope to highlight the data that has been collected over the years as part of the LPP so some context can be given to the hard work of our citizen scientists!

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