Originally published in the Kenora Miner and News on: June 28, 2019

satimageThe view from space is compelling. Each summer, Lake of the Woods is plagued by blue green algae blooms, as can be seen in the satellite image pictured above. It’s a transboundary lake – provincially and internationally – and that means that we must cooperate closely with our neighbors in Manitoba and the U.S. to protect our shared waters. This is the reason we have the International Joint Commission, or IJC, and its Rainy-Lake of the Woods Watershed Board, with a mandate to monitor ecosystem health across the border. 

So, how do you protect water quality when the water crosses multiple boundaries? This is definitely a challenge, but one that the IJC’s Watershed Board has recently taken on. Initiated in November 2018, the goal of the project is to recommend water quality and aquatic ecosystem health objectives for the boundary waters in our watershed. These objectives are targets for both countries to meet to protect water quality and aquatic ecosystem health. While there are dated objectives for the Rainy River, we currently do not have any internationally agreed upon water quality objectives for Lake of the Woods.

In the Rainy-Lake of the Woods Watershed as a whole, there are several lakes and rivers that are shared and there are many aquatic ecosystem health issues of concern: as noted above, algae blooms and the addition of nutrients that drive them are on the list, as are contaminants, aquatic invasive species and adaptation to climate change. This makes setting objectives a complex task, but this project will provide a meaningful benchmark against which to measure water quality improvements or changes. For an explanation of how objectives are used in boundary waters, please visit this website.

This first phase of the project will be completed by the end of October 2019. It will identify indicators needed to address the water quality issues listed above, prioritized for the various geographic areas in the watershed. The team has held workshops and discussions with experts and the public and will continue to do so until the completion of this first phase. Phase 2 will follow in the fall and will identify the specific guidelines that will be assigned to the recommended water quality objectives.

In March, the public sessions were held in International Falls, Minn. and now it’s Kenora’s turn – please consider coming to one of the sessions we have scheduled to provide your input into this important project:

Monday, July 8, 2019 at the Clarion Lakeside Inn in Kenora, ON:

Public Workshop at 2:30-4:00 p.m.

Community Conversation at 6:30-8:00 p.m.

For more information on these meetings, please contact Kelli Saunders at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

This series is provided as part of the International Watershed Coordination Program of the Lake of the Woods Water Sustainability Foundation.

Kelli Saunders, M.Sc., is the International Watershed Coordinator with the Lake of the Woods Water Sustainability Foundation.