Lake Partner Program – OVERVIEW

  • For the most current sampling results, click here…
  • For LPP contact info, and information about the DESC science lab, see end of this post

UPDATE December 2020: FOCA is pleased to announce we have entered into a new 5 year agreement in support of the Lake Partner Program (LPP), carrying on our longstanding partnership between dedicated waterfront volunteers and the Ontario Ministry of Environment, Conservation and Parks. Our important work together supports the shared commitment to the long term monitoring of our precious freshwater lakes.

October 2020: As originally communicated in the FOCA Elert on June 18, 2020, the Lake Partner Program was placed on hold in response to the COVID-19 outbreak and physical distancing requirements, so that the ministry could assess the safest way to continue the program while keeping volunteers and ministry staff safe. This assessment has been completed and the Lake Partner Program is being reinstated with temporary modifications for 2020Click here to see the full letter from MECP regarding the modifications for the completion of the 2020 sampling season.

NEW! Download a detailed overview of the LPP in FOCA’s Lake Partner Program report (PDF, 43 pages), including information about the program history, citizen science involvement, data trends, and case studies of how the long-term data is used. Also find out how to understand your own lake’s trophic status, water chemistry and biological features.

December 2019 – FOCA’s Executive Director and Vice President of the Board of Directors met with program partners at the Ministry of Environment Conservation and Parks (MECP) to continue discussions about the ongoing importance of the Lake Partner Program of volunteer water quality monitoring of Ontario’s inland lakes.

Also in mid-December, FOCA received the positive news we have been waiting for, in a letter from the Assistant Deputy Minister of MECP, which stated:

The Lake Partner Program collects important water quality information from hundreds of lakes across the province, raises awareness of environmental stewardship and promotes citizen science. Without the work and support of FOCA, its members and dedicated volunteers, the ministry would not be able to collect the type and breadth of water quality information needed to understand and protect the health of our inland waters. As such, I am pleased to inform you that the ministry intends to continue its collaboration with FOCA and financially supporting this relationship.”

Thank you to all our members and supporters who wrote the province and their MPPs about the importance of the Lake Partner Program!


July 17-18, 2019 – FOCA contributes to citizen science discussions in India:

Members of the Melles lab at Ryerson University held a two-day workshop and small conference in Bangalore, India on the topic of citizen science and volunteer water monitoring, as part of an IC-IMPACTS grant (an organization focused on fostering research partnerships between Indian and Canadian researchers).

During the event, we played a video that FOCA recorded specifically for us, which focused on explaining the volunteers tasks, tools, and protocols that the Lake Partner Program uses to facilitate volunteer data collection. The video contributed to ongoing discussion about how methods correspond with different volunteer tasks, and was a welcome addition to an event also filled with fascinating presentations from scientists and citizen science practitioners from organizations like the Wildlife Institute of India, ATREE, the Indian Biodiversity Portal, World Resources Institute, and Data Meet, and participants that included ecology students, and representatives from local think tanks and NGOs.

The Lake Partner Program video helped us demonstrate some of the great citizen science work that is being done in Ontario, and to show how volunteers can be coordinated to collect useful data at large scales, in an environment with so much freshwater to monitor. View the video on YouTube, here:

May 2019 – FOCA is pleased to confirm that the Lake Partner Program (LPP) will be in full operation for 2019, as funding has been confirmed from the Minister of Environment, Conservation and Parks. MANY THANKS to all the Associations and individuals who wrote letters and answered FOCA’s call-to-action (below). The MECP decision to continue funding the program through 2019 was aided by the strong community support for this vital long-term monitoring program.

November 2018 – a Call-to-Action: At the 2018 FOCA Fall Seminar, Board President Marlin Horst called upon members to write to Minister Rod Phillips (Ministry of the Environment, Conservation and Parks) in support of the ongoing citizen science being done through the Lake Partner Program. Read more and get details about where to send your letter, by downloading this overview,  with draft words for your letter (Word document, 2 pages).

About the Lake Partner Program – Background & Links

FOCA has partnered for many years with the Ministry of the Environment (now MOECC) on volunteer water-quality monitoring programs.

The goal of the Lake Partner Program is to better understand and protect the quality of Ontario’s inland lakes by involving citizens in a volunteer-based water quality monitoring program.

The Lake Partner Program is a province-wide, volunteer-based, water-quality monitoring program. Volunteers collect total phosphorus samples and make monthly water clarity observations on their lakes. This information will allow the early detection of changes in the nutrient status and/or the water clarity of the lake due to the impacts of shoreline development, climate change and other stresses.

magnifying glassVolunteer involvement requires the collection of one water sample for total phosphorus in May for lakes on the Canadian Shield and one sample each month (May-Oct) for lakes that are off the shield. These samples are returned postage paid to the Dorset Environmental Science Centre for analysis. In addition, volunteers are asked to make a minimum of 6 (monthly) water clarity observations using a Secchi disk. These observations are mailed to Dorset at the end of the summer.

  • For FOCA’s sampling tips (& video), click here...
  • Learn more about the ‘nuts & bolts’ of the Lake Partner Program by downloading a 23-page presentation by the Lake Partner Coordinator, by clicking here.

Why Sample?

Secchi Disc High levels of phosphorus can lead to algal blooms and in some cases affect the habitat of cold water fish such as lake trout. By sampling the total phosphorus each year it is possible to detect a change in the nutrient status of your lake. It is important to note that several years of data must be collected to observe the normal, between-year-differences before a trend can be identified.

While total phosphorus concentrations are the best way to describe the nutrient status of your lake, regular Secchi depths can also help to identify changes in water clarity that are not linked to nutrient status (zebra mussels, climate change, etc.).

Download the LPP registration form here.

Earlier News & Additional Information

June 2016 – FOCA and the Ontario Ministry of Environment and Climate Change are pleased to release the Lake Partner Program Report Card. This new Report consists of the following three key components:

  • LakePartnerReportCard2015 FINAL coverBackground information on Ontario’s Inland Lakes, and the Lake Partner Program
  • A description and summary of each of the three water quality indicators measured
    as part of the Lake Partner Program: Total Phosphorus, Calcium, and Water Clarity.
    Together, they provide a snapshot of the state of Ontario’s lakes.
  • Access to useful tools and other web-based information for citizen scientists and
    lake stewards.

Download the full Report here (PDF, 16 pages)

June 2015 – FOCA and DESC/MOECC staff – Pictured, from left to right:

Meeting at Dorset (L to R): Jenny Winters (Supervisor, MOECC Environmental Biomonitoring Section, MOECC Toronto), Terry Rees (FOCA), Christie Davies,(FOCA Lake Partner Assistant Coordinator, DESC) Anna Desellas (MOECC Inland Lakes Scientist, DESC), Rachael Fletcher (Manager, Environmental Biomonitoring Section, MOECC Toronto), Keith Somers (MOECC Inland Lakes Scientist, DESC Site Supervisor), Andrew Paterson (MOECC Inland Lakes Scientist, DESC), Deanna Panitz (FOCA Programs Coordinator) Steve Kerr (FOCA Board of Directors)Jenny Winters (Supervisor, MOECC Environmental Biomonitoring Section, MOECC Toronto), Terry Rees (FOCA), Christie Davies,(FOCA Lake Partner Assistant Coordinator, DESC) Anna Desellas (MOECC Inland Lakes Scientist, DESC), Rachael Fletcher (Manager, Environmental Biomonitoring Section, MOECC Toronto), Keith Somers (MOECC Inland Lakes Scientist, DESC Site Supervisor), Andrew Paterson (MOECC Inland Lakes Scientist, DESC), Deanna Panitz (FOCA Programs Coordinator), Steve Kerr (FOCA Board of Directors).

DESC Lab 2012About the Dorset Environmental Science Centre (DESC)

NEW – August 2017 – download the article: “Hidden science centre produces RESEARCH that makes a difference,” (PDF, 7 pages) from Unique Muskoka (August 2017 edition, p.25)

June 2017 – read about the DESC lab in the 2017 FOCA Lake Stewards Newsletter (p.14)

The DESC began its scientific activities in 1975. Since then, the centre has grown in size and scope and investigates a wide variety of water issues. The study area is comprised of a collection of lake basins in south-central Ontario that have varying amounts of cottage development. The centre’s primary focus is on integrated environmental monitoring, experimentation and data recording.  DESC is the home of the Lake Partner Program.

For more information, email the FOCA office at Or, visit the website of the Lake Partner Program of the Ministry of the Environment at, or contact them here:

Dorset Environmental Science Centre
P.O. Box 39
1026 Bellwood Acres Rd.
Dorset, ON  P0A 1E0

Tel (Toll Free – Ontario Only): 1-800-470-8322
Tel (Outside Ontario): 1-705-766-1294

Michelle LewinLake Partner Program – OVERVIEW