Concerns with water quality in Lake Joseph have recently surfaced, with some suggestions that the lake is in “big trouble.” This comment from the Bracebridge Examiner was in response to some water testing sites in Lake Joseph having total phosphorus readings in excess of the District’s designated phosphorus threshold for the lake.
What is the Muskoka Lakes Association doing about it?
The MLA’s Environment Portfolio is working on planning the Water Quality Initiative details for the 2008 season. This will be our 7th full season of organizing over 130 volunteers testing approximately 165 sites throughout the Muskoka Lakes. Results from our 2007 testing (and from previous years) are posted on our website. You should take a look at them. You’ll notice that there are several areas approaching or over the District’s Phosphorus threshold.
Over the last few years we’ve met with & shared our water testing results with various levels of government. We met and reviewed the 2007 results with the District of Muskoka, the Township of Muskoka Lakes and Seguin Township to better understand what they are doing to improve water quality. At the same time, we are working with at least two of the “over threshold” areas possible remedial actions. And, we are conducting a review of our Water Testing Initiative both from a scientific and a qualitative perspective to help us establish future goals. 
On February 28th  five MLA Board members attended the District of Muskoka’s Planning & Economic Development Committee meeting. The results of the District’s monitoring program were consistent with the data gathered independently by the MLA’s water testing programme.
During the Feb 28th meeting the District approved a Remedial Action Plan (RAP) for Lake Joseph. According to the staff report prepared by the Director of Watershed Programs, the RAP is intended to help the District “better understand the dynamics of the lake.”
The Lake Joseph Remedial Action Plan (RAP) calls for various levels of government to:
- Consolidate existing background data on the lake
- Increase phosphorus monitoring
- Survey shoreline land uses
- Assess limits to growth (development)
- Inspect all septic systems
- Consistently implement existing development policies
- Develop further by-laws governing tree cutting and site alteration
In addition, the RAP also calls for residents’ associations to focus on educating the public about how to protect water quality.
The MLA will continue to:
1.      test over 165 sites every two weeks throughout the lakes for phosphorus concentration, clarity and bacteria counts including monitoring at least eight areas of Lake Joseph as part of the MLA’s on-going Water Quality Initiative,
2.      share the results of our testing widely
3.      educate our members about ways to reduce phosphorus,
4.      monitor decisions made by local councils that have an impact on our  environment,
5.   advocate for policies that protect our common environment and ensure that they are enforced,
6.   proactively support communities interested in contributing to the solution including the Lake Joseph area.
Together, we must ensure that Lake Joseph, and all of our precious lakes, are sustained for the benefit of future generations.
Individually we can all make a difference. Please go to www.muskokaheritage.org for excellent articles on how we can live, work and develop our properties while protecting our water quality. We should all make use of rain barrels and proper detergents, limit tree cutting, naturalize the shoreline, monitor our septic systems.
So, is Lake Joseph in big trouble? If the interest and commitment already shown by community members is maintained or even increased, our lake is in good hands.
Interested in finding out more about the MLA Water Testing Initiative, or in volunteering to help?  Call us at 705-765-5723, or email us at info@mla.on.ca.