Halifax is rich with freshwater. The municipality is home to over 1,000 lakes, each with their own challenges and surrounding land use patterns. Lakes are not only popular destinations for swimming, hiking, canoeing, fishing, and other recreational activities, but play an essential ecological role and provide many ecosystem services including wildlife habitat and flood mitigation.
Beginning in the spring of 2022, the municipality’s Environment & Climate Change team will partner with local community organizations to launch LakeWatchers: a community-based lake monitoring program. LakeWatchers will gather water quality data that will help us understand the health of our lakes, and how they are changing. Data collected will inform planning policies for future growth and development.
Samples will be collected in the spring and summer from 76 lakes by local community organizations and consultants. LakeWatchers is separate from other municipal programming such as our beach monitoring program, Canines for Clean Water, or our response to Cyanobacteria blooms (also known as Blue Green Algae).
Frequently Asked Questions
- What is LakeWatchers?
LakeWatchers is a new lake monitoring program spearheaded by the municipality’s Environment & Climate Change team. The program will monitor 76 lakes starting in 2022 with samples collected by both community members and municipal staff.
- How do I participate?
Residents can participate by collecting data for a local lake. If you live on or near one of the 76 lakes selected for the program, we encourage you to start a LakeWatchers Monitoring Team to collect water quality samples. Please contact the LakeWatcher Program Coordinator at firstname.lastname@example.org to find out more about roles and expectations of LakeWatcher Monitoring Teams and when the next round of training and sampling will take place.
- Why isn't my lake included? How can I add it to the list?
The list of lakes was chosen through a vulnerability study that identified key criteria for the program. This scientific approach rated lakes based on local land uses and other municipal work to determine which lakes were the most susceptible to changes in our region. A total of 76 lakes were chosen for this study. The LakeWatchers program is designed to be adaptable to changes in our municipality. If you think we have missed a lake that should be sampled, please email email@example.com with your concerns.
- How were the 76 lakes selected?
76 lakes were chosen to be included in the LakeWatchers program. These lakes were assessed as either highly vulnerable or moderately vulnerable through a previous study. LakeWatchers will be an adaptive program. As data is analyzed, the list of lakes will be assessed to determine whether the frequency of monitoring should be increased or decreased and whether new lakes should be added or removed. As the program evolves, community groups and can help inform the inclusion of additional lakes throughout the municipality.
- What is being monitored?
A deep water lab sample (a fixed geographic location where a sampling device is lowered to capture water from one metre above the bottom of the lake) will be taken for assessment. Lab sampling will include Total Phosphorus, chloride and E. coli. In addition to the lab sample, a YSI multi-meter probe will be used to collect in-field parameters at 0.5m intervals. This will provide a lake profile.
- Why do we monitor water?
There are three key reasons why water quality is monitored: for drinking water, for recreational water purposes, and environmental health. Drinking water sources are either monitored by Halifax Water if you receive municipally-supplied water, or by a homeowner if you pull water from a well or other waterbody for drinking water. Water is also monitored for recreational purposes, as with the municipality’s beach testing program. Water can also be monitored for environmental health, which considers water quality suitability for aquatic life. The frequency of all three types of monitoring vary, as do the parameters and instruments used.
- Why are samples only taken in the spring and summer?
Lakes typically have two main environmental seasons depending on their depth and size. Depending on these factors, lakes will have a spring and fall “turnover event” where the temperatures switch from being cool on top and warm on the bottom of the lake in winter and spring, to warm on top and cool on the bottom in the summer and early fall. Spring and Summer sampling times will capture these two different “seasons” for lakes.
- What is a deep-water station?
A deep-water station is a fixed geographic location where a sampling device is lowered to capture water from one metre above the bottom of the lake. This area is ideal for sampling.
- Where can I find the results of the monitoring?
The municipality will share all data collected through LakeWatchers via our open data portal and other data platforms. A full report of what was found will be provided to Regional Ccouncil (and will therefore be publicly available) after two years of sampling have been completed.
- Why is the municipality starting this program?
The municipality is reinstating a lake monitoring program after a decade-long hiatus. The municipality’s previous program ran from 2006-2012. Though lakes and rivers fall under provincial jurisdiction, several municipal programs and responsibilities influence lake health, such as development, street maintenance and cleaning, park trails, and more. The Lake Monitoring program will help identify potential inputs that are within municipal jurisdiction to better understand the health of our lakes.
- Is Blue Green Algae being monitored?
Cyanobacteria, also known as Blue Green Algae, is a microscopic algae that is naturally found in our waters. Under the right conditions, it can grow quickly and can potentially produce harmful toxins. For more information, visit our web page.
- How many lakes are there in the municipality?
There are over 1000 lakes in Halifax Regional Municipality. The 76 lakes chosen for this study were based on a previous vulnerability study which assessed lakes that would be impacted by municipal work, such as development and land-use change.
- How often will the testing results be shared publicly?
Raw data will be made available on Halifax Regional Municipality’s open data portal and updated annually. A “state of the lakes” report will be prepared by municipal staff after two years of sampling to present to Regional Council.
- How is this program different from beach monitoring in the summertime?
Beach testing is primarily done for recreational water usage. Samples are taken for E. coli and Enterococcus on a weekly basis to determine if the waters are within safe limits for swimming. More information can be found on our website.
|Lakes included in the 2022 LakeWatchers Program|
|Lakes included in the 2022 LakeWatchers Program|
|Big Cranberry (Reference)|
|Little Springfield Lake|
|Quarry (Birch Cove)|
|Rocky (North East Basin)|
|Sandy (Glen Arbour)|
|Susies (Birch Cove)|
|Thomas (North Basin)|
|Thomas (South Basin)|