Following extensive engagement, and with the assistance of many partners, the Province of Ontario and the Government of Canada have finalized the Canada-Ontario Lake Erie Action Plan to reduce phosphorus loads and algal blooms in Lake Erie.
Over the past decade, Lake Erie has shown symptoms of extreme stress due to high phosphorus levels that are contributing to an increase in harmful and nuisance algal blooms and low oxygen conditions. These conditions can have significant economic, social and ecological impacts. For example, hundreds of thousands of Ontarians in the Lake Erie basin rely on the lake as a primary source of drinking water. According to a recent report, the costs of harmful and nuisance algal blooms on the Canadian side of Lake Erie could reach up to $272 million annually.
Without reducing the amount of phosphorus entering the lake from all sources, the ecological health of the lake will continue to be threatened. To restore and protect the lake’s water quality, the Action Plan includes over 120 actions that will help achieve the 40 per cent phosphorus load reduction targets for the western and central basins of Lake Erie (based on 2008 levels). These actions will be taken by the governments of Ontario and Canada, as well as key partners, sectors and communities, including municipalities, agricultural sector, conservation authorities and non-governmental organizations.
Ontario also recognizes that First Nations and Métis communities living within the Great Lakes basin have contributed to the protection of the Great Lakes ecosystem health. Their perspectives continue to enhance our understanding of stewardship responsibilities regarding the natural environment and water, including the Lake Erie basin and watershed.
The Action Plan meets Ontario’s commitments under the Canada-Ontario Agreement on Great Lakes Water Quality and Ecosystem Health, 2014 (COA).
Ontario has also adopted a target under the Great Lakes Protection Act, 2015 (GLPA) for the reduction of algal blooms. This Action Plan will serve as the Minister of the Environment and Climate Change’s plan for meeting the GLPA target. The target set under the GLPA to assist in the reduction of algal blooms is a 40 per cent phosphorus load reduction by 2025 for the Ontario portion of the western and central basins of Lake Erie (from 2008 levels) using an adaptive management approach (including an aspirational interim goal of a 20 percent reduction by 2020).
Through the Action Plan, Ontario will also meet its commitments under the Western Basin of Lake Erie Collaborative Agreement between Ontario, Michigan, and Ohio; and the Great Lakes Commission’s Joint Action Plan for Lake Erie which included the participation of Ontario, Ohio, Michigan, New York and Pennsylvania.