LRCA's Watershed Monitoring Program

Discover LRCA’s Watershed Monitoring Program. Click and explore the online interactive story map for more information.


Bathing Beach Sampling

Since 1994, the LRCA has annually monitored the water quality of the beach waters at Hazelwood Lake Conservation Area for Escherichea coli (E. coli).

Water samples are collected and submitted to the Ministry of Health Laboratory for analysis under the Thunder Bay District Health Unit's Bathing Beach Program. In addition, field testing is conducted using a hand held multi-parameter meter for pH, temperature, dissolved oxygen, turbidity, total dissolved solids and conductivity. All results are compared to Provincial Water Quality Objective guidelines. Beaches advisories are posted, if warranted, with signs provided by the Thunder Bay District Health Unit indicating waters to be unsafe for bathing.

Blue-Green Algae (Cyanobacteria) Monitoring Program

The LRCA is taking progressive steps to further understand and analyze cyanobacteria within the conservation areas and the Lakehead Watershed. In July and August 2022, the LRCA will be conducting weekly testing, using Algal Toxin Test Strips, to ascertain the absence or presence of cyanobacteria at Hazelwood Lake, Mission Island Marsh, Hurkett Cove, and Silver Harbour Conservation Areas. Testing sites were selected based on the frequency of visitor contact with open water. Baseline data will be collected to determine the dominant genus of algae and characterize the trends within the water bodies throughout the year. The Canadian Recreational Water Quality Guideline for total microcystins in recreational waters used for primary contact recreation is 10 ppb. Positive test results that indicate an exceedance of the guideline will be reported to the Ministry of the Environment, Conservation, and Parks (MECP) and the Thunder Bay District Health Unit (TBDHU). Confirmed exceedances may result in a beach closure as directed by the MECP or TBDHU. Any swimming advisories or beach closures will be posted on the LRCA’s website and social media platforms and signage will be displayed at the site.

 More information about Blue-Green Algae can be found here. 

Snow Surveys

Since 1974, throughout the winter, LRCA staff conduct bi-monthly snow surveys at three historical locations which are located at Hazelwood Lake Conservation Area (Current River), Madeline Street (McVicar Creek) and Vibert Road (Pennock Creek). Measurements are taken for snow depth as well as water content. This information is provided to MNRF as part of the Flood Forecasting program.

Provincial Groundwater Monitoring Network (PGMN)

The Provincial Groundwater Monitoring Network (PGMN) is a partnership program with the Ministry of Environment and Climate Change to monitor groundwater conditions. The Provincial Groundwater Monitoring Network measures long term changes to water quality and levels. The LRCA has participated in the program since 2005.

Wells are currently installed in the Municipality of Oliver Paipoonge (Kakabeka and Murillo fire halls), Municipality of Shuniah (Loon Lake and Birch Beach), Township of Dorion (MNR Fish Culture Station), City of Thunder Bay (Jackpine Community Centre) and LRCA owned property at Hazelwood Lake and Wishart Forest. In addition, a new well was installed in 2011 at the Neebing River Gauge site in the City of Thunder Bay as part of the Canada-Ontario Agreement Climate Change Integrated Monitoring program.

The PGMN program collects hourly groundwater level information and water quality information annually from each well. The Ministry of the Environment and Climate Change compares the water quality data to the Ontario Drinking Water Standards and notifies the Conservation Authority of any exceedances. The Conservation Authority is then responsible to notify the owner and the Municipality of the observed exceedance. The Health Unit is responsible for any health related notifications to residents near the sampling location.

Provincial Water Quality Monitoring Network (PWQMN)

The Provincial Water Quality Monitoring Network (PWQMN) is a partnership program with the Ministry of Environment and Climate Change which collects surface water quality information from rivers and streams across Ontario. The main objective of the PWQMN is to protect human health and aquatic ecosystems by providing reliable and current information on stream water quality. PWQMN partners collect water samples and deliver them to the Ministry of Environment where they are analyzed in the Ministry's laboratory. The MOECC manages the sampling results and provides the water quality data to the public. The MOECC responds to hundreds of requests for PWQMN data each year. Currently, water quality is measured at over 400 locations in rivers and streams across Ontario.

The sample sites in the Thunder Bay area are located on the Neebing River, McVicar Creek, Slate River, Current River and the McIntyre River. In 2008 the LRCA joined the program. The water quality parameters that are tested include chloride, nutrients, suspended solids and trace metals. Samples are taken for eight consecutive months each year during the ice-free period (March/April to October/November).

Streamflow and Precipitation Monitoring

In partnership with Environment Canada remote telemetry gauges have been established on the following watercourses to assist the flood forecasting and warning program: Neebing River, Upper Neebing River, McIntyre River, McVicar Creek, Current River, Whitefish River, North Current River, Slate River and Corbett Creek. The gauges measure stream level as well as collect precipitation data during spring, summer and fall.

Streamflow statistics and real time data can be obtained from the Water Survey of Canada Website

The LRCA also collects year round precipitation data with a Geonor precipitation gauge that is installed at the Authority office. Manual precipitation gauges that collect data during the spring, summer and fall are also maintained at the office, staff residences and at various locations by local volunteers.

The Authority is also a member of the Community Collaborative Rain, Hail and Snow Network (CoCoRaHS) which is a non-profit community based, network of volunteers who take daily measurements of rain, hail and snow in their backyards. All collected data is available on-line at If a member of the public is interested in joining the network, LRCA staff can assist with obtaining a rain gauge and registration.

Watershed Report Cards

Conservation Authority watershed report cards are a management and evaluation tool that allow Conservation Authorities and their partners to better target programs and measure environmental change.

The watershed report cards are a successful way to deliver a vast amount of technical information in a readily understandable and interesting way. Municipalities, agencies, and other stakeholders can use the outcomes of the report cards to assist their programs.

For an additional resource, please visit the Conservation Ontario Watershed Checkup website.