To provide information and advice to reduce the surface and subsurface transportation of nutrients off agricultural land, either directly into waterways or via municipal drainage systems. A small implementation team under the auspices of the OFA has been organized to carry out the strategy.
Addressing the PROBLEM.
Phosphorus is a naturally occurring nutrient and, at normal levels, it isn’t harmful. But elevated levels of phosphorus in water from all land uses including urbanization and agriculture can overload a body of water, creating toxic algal blooms under some summer conditions. Runoff from agricultural fields that collects in municipal drains is major source of phosphorus.
These blooms disrupt the lake’s natural ecosystem and can even make the water unsafe for people to drink. A spike in the number of algal bloom incidents in recent years has caused a great deal of concern on both sides of the Canada-U.S. border. Lake St. Clair, which is an indirect pathway to Lake Erie, has also been experiencing problems with near-shore algal blooms.
Beyond what's happening on the land, a warming climate, altered hydrologic patterns, and the arrival of invasive zebra and quagga mussels are complicating matters.
While many people in government, conservation authorities and the agricultural and environmental spheres have worked very hard over many decades to reduce phosphorus runoff, more needs to be done.
Among the recent initiatives to resolve the problem is a commitment made in 2016 between Canada and the U.S. to a 40 per cent reduction in the total phosphorus entering Lake Erie. There is also a commitment among Ohio, Michigan and Ontario to reduce phosphorus by 40 per cent by 2025.
The Canadian and Ontario governments have also released a Draft Action Plan that sets out proposals for reducing phosphorus loadings, ensuring effective policies, programs and legislation, improving the knowledge base, educating and building awareness and strengthening leadership and coordination. The consultation period for this plan ends in late summer 2017 with a final action plan expected by February 2018.
The Thames River Basin in Ontario covers an area of more than 16,000 square kilometres. It’s a massive job that requires the co-operative efforts of many.
That’s why the Thames River Phosphorus Reduction Collaborative represents a wide variety of interested groups – including conservation authorities, farm groups, First Nations and environmental organizations as well as municipal, provincial and federal governments – who are collaborating to tackle the issue.
The more we work together, the more resources we can leverage to make real progress in transforming Lake Erie.