BTalgaeThe Foundation has launched a project to develop a framework for a future phosphorus management plan for the Canadian portion of the binational Rainy-River-Lake of the Woods, with the support of a Contribution Agreement from Environment and Climate Change Canada (ECCC).

This project will scope and outline the key elements that would be required to develop a domestic phosphorus management plan collaboratively with relevant parties in the basin, once phosphorus targets are set by Canada domestically or as shared binational targets with Minnesota.

This work is timely now, to prepare for moving from research to action. In late June, the US EPA approved Minnesota’s phosphorus plan that sets phosphorus targets for each source to the Rainy River and Lake of the Woods. In Canada, ECCC completed public engagements last spring on potential phosphorus reduction scenarios based on its four-year science program (see the LOWWSF “What We Heard Report”).

NewForumLogo 3Save the dates!  The 2022 International Rainy-Lake of the Woods Watershed Forum will be held March 9-10, 2022 as a virtual online event.  The 2022 Forum will feature special sessions on emerging vulnerabilities, zebra mussels and other aquatic invasive species, in addition to the usual topics that include fisheries, climate change and more!

Like last year, the Forum will be held virtually as an online event, due to continued uncertainty about cross border travel.  More information about the Forum is available now and more details will roll out (including the program and attendee registration) over the winter at the Foundation’s website:

ECCC 2021 samplemapEnvironment and Climate Change Canada’s team responsible for sampling water quality on Lake of the Woods was out this September doing a lake-wide survey of 28 sites (see map). Water quality sampling had been paused last year due to Covid restrictions. In addition, they re-initiated their long-term monitoring of the Rainy River inflow to Lake of the Woods and the Winnipeg River outflow.

At each site, water quality parameters measured included: phosphorous, nitrogen, carbon and their various forms, total and dissolved metals, major ions, Chlorophyll a, Phycocyanin (an algal pigment found in blue-green algae), total suspended solids, algal toxins and taxonomy, secchi depths, dissolved oxygen, pH, turbidity, conductivity and temperature. 


Collage SatAug31 SmkJly29The seasonal algae bloom on Lake of the Woods is underway and has progressed up into the north end of the lake, as shown in the satellite image and associated derived chlorophyll-a data for August 31. 

For much of the summer, it seemed like a "light year" for algae blooms, but blooms began to develop in mid-to late August.  The low blooms in much of the mid-summer may perhaps be due to the low water and low flows from the nutrient-rich southern basin of Lake of the Woods, or perhaps lower light conditions due to the intense smoke that blanketed the lake throughout July and into the first week of August.  The smoke conditions also likely limited the days for which the satellite tools could generate good chlorophyll-a estimates.  The satellite tools, developed by Dr. Caren Binding at Environment and Climate Change Canada, hold much promise for long-term monitoring of trends  in algae bloom intensity and severity.  

zebramusselsDisappointing news.  Zebra mussel larvae have been confirmed in Rainy Lake by the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (MNDNR).  The larvae were found in four of five water samples taken in July 2021, suggesting that there is a reproducing population in the lake according to MNDNR. This follows on an unconfirmed report of larvae in 2020 by a member of the public.  Locations of adult reproductive colonies have not yet been located or confirmed. Rainy Lake straddles the Ontario-Minnesota border and flows downstream via the Rainy River to Lake of the Woods.  

This follows equally concerning confirmations by MN DNR in 2019 and 2020 of zebra mussel larvae at several sites in the southern portion of Lake of the Woods.  


What we heardLOWWSF has released a report summarizing what we heard from the public during engagement sessions with Environment and Climate Change Canada on its set of proposed lake ecosystem objectives and potential phosphorus reduction scenarios to improve water quality for Lake of the Woods.  Hundreds participated in ten webinars and online via ECCC's Lake of the Woods engagement website.  The messages were clear and a call to action -- "get on with it":

  • Adopt a 20% phosphorus reduction target
  • Set binational phosphorus targets
  • Ensure ongoing core monitoring
  • Act without further delay

  pdf Download the report here (551 KB)

sobr cvrIt seems just like yesterday, but it’s been seven years since the last Rainy-Lake of the Woods State of the Basin Report (SOBR) was published. Since 2014, we have learned a lot about our lake, its watershed and the priority concerns about water quality, invasive species, nutrients and toxic algae, and much, much more.  

In June, we launched a major project to update the State of the Basin Report to 2021, in a multi-jurisdictional collaboration led by the Lake of the Woods Water Sustainability Foundation, with the Territorial Planning Unit of Grand Council Treaty #3, members of the International Multi-Agency Arrangement (government agencies, U.S. Tribal, non-governmental organizations), and the International Joint Commission watershed Board. 

Publication of the SOBR 2021 Edition is planned for March 2022.

by Bev Clark, for the Lake of the Woods Water Sustainability Foundation

DJI 0252L 224 640If you are concerned about algal blooms in Lake of the Woods or algal blooms anywhere for that matter, then you will hear a great deal about phosphorus concentrations and phosphorus loads.  The difference is almost straightforward. 

In this article, Bev demystifies the talk about phosphorus and its relationship to algae and how it relates to the types of lakes in our region, ranging from the ultra-clear waters of Lake 224 pictured here to the algae laden green waters of the south end of Lake of the Woods

(Lake 224 photo courtesy of the IISD Experimental Lakes Area)