Lake Partner Program

The Lake Partner Program is a great example of community water monitoring, bringing together community volunteers with a shared interest for lake preservation.

FOCA has partnered since 1996 in the Lake Partner Program (LPP). The LPP is a province-wide, volunteer-based, water-quality monitoring program – the largest of its kind in Canada! Each year, hundreds of volunteers collect total water samples and make monthly water clarity observations on their lakes. 

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.

Scientific analysis of the samples is conducted at the Inland Waters Section of the Environmental Monitoring and Reporting Branch of the Ministry of Environment Conservation and Parks (MECP lab). Samples are tested for total phosphorus, calcium, chloride, and water clarity. After careful scientific quality-checking, the dataset is released to the volunteers, the public, researchers and other scientists.

The two-dedades-long LPP dataset can assist in the early detection of changes in the nutrient status and/or the water clarity of the lakes, due to the impacts of shoreline development, climate change and other stresses.

banner: Latest News

January 17, 2024 – The 2022 LPP sampling results are finally (!) available from datasets released by the Ministry of Environment, Conservation and Parks, and can be accessed from the download links immediately below. The Ministry has informed FOCA the “2023 LPP data is targeted for release in spring 2024.”

The datasets up to 2022 are also available for download via the Open Data Catalogue, however the Ministry’s online map has not yet been updated with the last few years of data.

If you cannot access your lake’s results, contact the Lake Partner Program Coordinator for assistance by email.

Find out if sampling is happening at YOUR waterbody. If not, we hope you will consider becoming the newest Lake Partner Program volunteer!

Data collected up to 2019 can be reviewed on the interactive map maintained by MECP. (click the image at the side) We understand from our Ministry partners that an effort is underway to update the data available in map format; stay tuned for updates.

No recent results for your inland Ontario lake?

We might need YOU as a volunteer!

Volunteer involvement requires the collection of one water sample for total phosphorus in May for lakes on the Canadian Shield, or one sample each month (May-October) for lakes that are off the shield.

These samples are returned, postage-paid, to the MECP lab for scientific analysis.

In addition, volunteers are asked to make a minimum of 6 monthly water clarity observations using a Secchi disk. (To learn more about the Secchi disk, watch the sampling video below!) These observations are mailed back to the lab at the end of the summer.

Wondering what it’s like to participate in the LPP? Read first-hand accounts from our Lake Stewards who are the volunteer backbone of the LPP, in an article on page 24 of the 2023 Ontario Lake Stewards Magazine (PDF, 32 pages).

Find out more about the LPP by watching the video at the side. 

Ready to volunteer? Download & return the LPP Volunteer Registration Form! (fillable PDF, 1 page)

Want more information about the LPP? Read onward!


Download a digital copy of the full Lake Partner Program Report (2020, PDF, 43 pages) including:

  • the program history
  • citizen science involvement
  • data trends
  • case studies of how the long-term data is used

Why Sample?

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.).

Additional Sampling Tools & Related Guides:

Articles about the LPP in FOCA's Newsletters:

FOCA Lobbied to save the LPP:

"FOCA is pleased to announce we have entered into a new 5 year agreement in support of the Lake Partner Program, 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."
~FOCA media release
December 2020

FOCA’s sincere thanks to all our members & supporters who wrote the province and their MPPs about the importance of the LPP! The MECP decision to continue funding the program through 2019 was aided by the strong community support for this vital long-term monitoring program.

Results of FOCA’s Call-to-Action: After issuing a call in 2018 for our members to write the MECP in support of continuing the ongoing citizen science being done in the LPP (when ongoing funding was under threat; see more, below), FOCA was pleased to receive a letter in December 2019 that included this statement:

“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.”

FOCA called our members to action in November 2018:

“The Province has made stern warnings about their fiscal situation, and—in the Ernst & Young report (Sept. 21, 2018) and elsewhere—have referenced the need to rationalize or modify their approach to Transfer Payments to partners and service delivery agents. While the majority of such funding is tied to health care and education, any wholesale change to third-party funding/program support may affect small-but-important agreements such as the one between FOCA and MECP for the LPP. FOCA recently met with MECP Minister Rod Phillips and his senior staff, to make them aware of the importance of the work we do together. We value the effort our volunteers put into this program, and the science that it produces – science that otherwise would not exist. We encourage you to write your MPP and the Minister to them them how important water quality is to your community, and how the Province can continue to capitalize on this very cost-effective program, by continuing their modest support of the LPP, through FOCA.

Please note: the following is archival material, and some links to third-party resources may no longer be active.

November 25, 2021: Insights from a quarter-century of science at the cottage  (Great Lakes Datastream/Gordon Foundation)

October 2020: As originally communicated by FOCA in June 2020, the LPP 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 read the full letter from MECP regarding the modifications for the completion of the 2020 sampling season.

July 2019: FOCA contributes to citizen science discussions in India:

Members of the Melles lab at Ryerson University held a 2-day workshop 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 (LPP) 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 LPP 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:

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)

Learn more about why citizen science matters, on our webpage: Citizen Science