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Seeking input on commitment to Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement


May 1, 2017
By Mark Reusser Vice President OFA

A new proposed action plan to reduce phosphorus levels in Lake Erie has been developed by the Canadian and Ontario governments. Called the “Domestic Action Plan,” it summarizes and seeks input on proposed actions to meet commitments under the Canada-U.S. Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement.

Lake Erie has been the main focus for phosphorus reduction in the Great Lakes. The result of excess phosphorus entering Lake Erie has been algal blooms that can be harmful to human health and the environment. The Canadian and Ontario governments recognize the complexity of this issue, and the many sources of phosphorus entering Lake Erie. Identified sources include runoff from cities and towns, agricultural sources, sewage treatment plants, airborne particles, septic systems and industrial discharges. Climate change, altered hydrologic patterns, changes in land use and the arrival of invasive species like zebra and quagga mussels also add to the algal bloom problems.

The draft Domestic Action Plan recognizes the large number of contributing factors and proposes guiding principles to address phosphorus reduction in Lake Erie and surrounding watersheds. The plan identifies actions for government, municipalities, conservation authorities, Indigenous communities, and partners in key sectors, including agriculture and industry, to help reduce phosphorus entering Lake Erie by 40 percent.

Ontario farmers are already taking action to reduce phosphorus entering the watersheds and Great Lakes by adopting the 4R Nutrient Stewardship principles. Working groups have been organized across Ontario agricultural organizations to evaluate agronomic practices to reduce nutrient loss, like cover crops and timing of nutrient applications. Agricultural groups are also working with the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs to develop an Agricultural Soil Health and Conservation Strategy, another valuable resource in the lineup of efforts to reduce phosphorus loss into our Great Lakes.

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Ontario’s Great Lakes Basin includes 95 percent of Ontario’s agricultural land. Farmers know how important it is to keep our environment healthy, including our soil, waterways and the Great Lakes. 


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