water quality- by Louis Roesch, Director, Ontario Federation of Agriculture

Farmers and community partners are taking action to keep waterways safe with a science-based approach. Four new on-farm test sites will be added this fall in southwestern Ontario, thanks to new funding, to collect real-time data on phosphorus and nitrogen loss into waterways, as part of the Thames River Phosphorus Reduction Collaborative (PRC).

A recent federal funding announcement has helped the group expand their research. One is already operating, and four more will be added with the new funding. The project sites will monitor and evaluate the effectiveness of phosphorus removal technologies at the edge of agricultural fields and in municipal drains that collect agricultural runoff in the Thames River Basin area.

Administered by the Ontario Federation of Agriculture (OFA) and the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence Cities Initiative, the PRC works with farmers, drainage engineers, conservation authorities, Indigenous people and universities to develop practical, cost-effective water management and drainage strategies for both urban and agricultural areas.

OFA has been involved in many water quality projects, led research projects and advised on water policies and legislation. Through the PRC, OFA is participating in this proactive monitoring and data collection project to evaluate nutrients entering waterways from farms and the development of new water management technologies for Ontario farmers. All five test sites are located on farms of different agricultural practices and soil types, and all participants are OFA members.

Phosphorus sources include runoff from cities and towns, agricultural sources, sewage treatment plants, airborne particles, septic systems and industrial discharges. Phosphorus entering waterways contributes to the growth of harmful algal blooms in the Thames River and Lake Erie, and recent rains and hot summer weather could further contribute to an algal bloom in the lake.

Taking a proactive approach to researching on-farm water quality management in the Thames River area and Lake Erie is an important step to preventing further algal blooms and maintaining safe and healthy waterways.

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