The International Watershed Coordinator—Keeping Us Working Together.

IWC Venn 2018 07 20Kelli Saunders is the Foundation's International Watershed Coordinator. A dedicated resource to support and coordinate research, management and civic engagement initiatives underway internationally across our watershed. She keeps the three main spheres of activity in the watershed working together effectively:

  • International Joint Commission (IJC) and its International Rainy-Lake of the Woods Watershed Board (IRLWWB)
  • The International Multi Agency Arrangement (IMA) research and management collaboration.
  • Local groups and agencies engaged in watershed activities throughout the bi-national basin.

lakesmartLakeSmart is an award-winning environmental outreach program unique to the Lake of the Woods area of northwestern Ontario. A signature program of the our sister organization, the Lake of the Woods District Stewardship Association (LOWDSA), it is focused on environmental education and helping lake users “live and play green” at the lake.  The LakeSmart Boat is now launched and the team looks forward to visiting you. 

To contact the LakeSmart team or to book a visit: email  This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.  or reach to LOWDSA via social media.  The Lake of the Woods Water Sustainability Foundation is proud to be one of the sponsors of the LakeSmart program again this yar, along with many others including, Invading Species Awareness Program, Lake of the Woods Coffee Company, Kenora and Lake of hte Woods Community Foundation, Cabin Country Realty, Copperfin Credit Union, Q104, World of Water, EcoCanada, Nature Conservancy, Ontario Power Generation, Grand Council Treaty #3, Lake of hte Woods Mobile Marine, Lake of the Woods Septic Barge, Richard McKenzie Insurance and Talbot Marketing. Spiny waterfleas are small aquatic predators native to Eurasia. The first report of spiny waterfleas in North America was in Lake Ontario in 1982 and was introduced to the Great Lakes in ballast water from ocean-going ships. “Spiny” is a species of zooplankton – small animals that rely on water currents and wind to move long distances. They prefer large, deep, clear lakes, but can also be found in shallower waters. 

Blog CEThis year’s workshop was a true testament to how we can adapt our engagement for the collective efforts on stewardship. On March 31st, 38 people came together on Zoom and worked together, with our two presenters, to discuss the most effective ways to engage citizens in science and stewardship. The lessons learned came from all over the watershed and involved a diverse range of passionate scientists, educators, lake users, and associations.

You can pdf download the report here! (296 KB)

Fourth Binational Lake Association Network Event in the books!

In the ongoing spirit of cross-border collaboration, the fourth international Lake Association Network Event took place virtually on November 24, 2020.  A pdf summary report is available for download (449 KB) . The half day workshop was attended by 24 individuals from Ontario and Minnesota, representing 15 different lake associations, resource agencies and organizations.  The session was a mix of very practical and relevant presentations that covered green infrastructure ideas, how to establish an Environment Committee, a Q/A session on effective communication and a roundtable of association highlights.

trentOriginally published on August 20, 2020

Since March 2018, Trent University has been in the basin studying nutrient (primarily phosphorus) delivery to Lake of the Woods from both watershed and atmospheric sources.  It is well known that much of the nutrients that enter a waterbody are flushed in during storm events, so capturing that data is a definite challenge, especially when you don’t live here permanently. Thanks to local agencies and members of the public who are volunteering their time to help Trent, this is now possible, so more robust and indicative data are emerging.

Preliminary results of the data collected to date are showing that phosphorus export in the lower Rainy River tributaries (Everett Creek and Sturgeon, Lavallee and Pinewood Rivers) is strongly associated with sediment material, and the naturally erodible nature of the Rainy River area means that soils in this region are highly sensitive to disturbance.

septicOriginally published on August 14, 2020

As part of our “Ask An Expert Webinar Series,” we heard from Rob Davis of EcoEthic Inc., last week on how septic systems work, how to watch for signs of failure, a few myths and lots of great tips for preventing bigger problems before they happen. I was so impressed with the information, I thought it was important to share it because I know there are a lot of septic system owners out there and these systems don’t always come with a user manual.

It was interesting to find out that septic systems were first invented in France about 260 years ago, but were intended only to handle black water (i.e. human waste), not the typical things we let go down the drain like bathing and laundry soap. The systems incorporate not only physical treatment (sinking and floating of material) but, more importantly, biological treatment as well (digestion of waste by bacteria). More microbes in the system equate to better treatment and fewer nutrients exiting the system.

expertThere is a wealth of expertise locally when it comes to water quality, forestry, algae and septic systems and as part of our International Watershed Coordination Program, we are offering a free virtual webinar series this summer to give you access to some of these wonderful experts! Starting on July 29, we will be running weekly lunchtime webinars on Wednesdays at 12 p.m. CT – tune in to learn more about these topics of interest and ask questions.

crayfishCrayfish are a common sight in this neck of the woods and are a highly sought-after crustacean worldwide, being rich in protein and low in fat. In fact, in Europe, they are considered a delicacy. Crayfish are omnivorous, so they feed on animals and plants, either living or decomposing. Some are native to this area, like the virile crayfish, but it’s just as likely that you’ll see a rusty crayfish, an invasive species that has become just about as common, if not more, than its native cousin.

Originally published in Kenora Miner and News on July 3, 2020.

0619 kn kelliFor many, the answer to this is “nothing” because there is often a very deep connection to water for those who have waterfront property. But, the question is really about what you should allow to come between you and your lake – literally.

I was lucky enough to spend this last week out on Lake of the Woods in a favourite cabin, surrounded by trees, wildlife and, of course — water. I instantly felt a sense of calm and relaxation when I got there and as each day passed, a greater sense of respect and gratitude for this lake and its surroundings. For the most part, as I kayaked and canoed along the shoreline, I noticed many properties have kept a buffer of vegetation at the shoreline. They’ve kept things wild by letting the grass grow, letting the trees and shrubs stabilize their shoreline, minimizing the artificial structures and reducing disturbance. But, our lakes need everyone to do this, collectively, in order to have the biggest impact. Those who own waterfront property really do have a unique responsibility.

Originally published in Kenora Miner and News on June 23, 2020

spiny GMontzRusty crayfish, spiny waterflea, zebra mussels, purple loosestrife, rainbow smelt, narrow-leaved cattail are just a few of the over 15 aquatic/riparian species here in the Lake of the Woods and Rainy River area that have come from somewhere else, they are not native to this part of the world.

In the broad sense, invasive species have the potential to drastically change the ecosystem, aggressively out-competing native species, changing the quality of water and affecting the food web, threatening wildlife and woodlands and causing significant economic losses to forestry, agriculture, fisheries, and other industries affected by their impact. Reducing the spread of these invasives is everyone’s responsibility, but it’s of particular interest to a group of specialists from Minnesota, Ontario and Manitoba who meet regularly on this topic.

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