Worst Lakes in Quebec: “Our Lakes Orphans”

For the third year in a row, Le Journal presents a list of lakes of concern in each region of Quebec. The management of these watersheds is hand-carried out by local associations, which are mostly made up of volunteers. This list is only the tip of the iceberg because most of the province’s lakes are unobserved.

In 15 years, lakes have never been tested for water quality, although epidemics are more frequent in Quebec than in Quebec lakes.

“The lakes have been abandoned in Quebec,” denigrates Jean-Claude Dibot, who has been involved in the conservation of lakes for 60 years, and one of the founders (reminder) of the Association of Associations for the Conservation of Lakes and Waters.

For the third year in a row, our Intelligence Bureau presents its key document on lakes. We analyzed data from 827 lakes of the Voluntary Lake Monitoring Network (RSVL), excluding data from the Ministry of Cyanobacteria (blue-green algae) and Eurasian watermilk. Our interactive map will provide you with information on the existence of 6 other invasive alien plants.

Our analysis confirms what experts fear: contagion is an obstacle to efforts to protect lakes. In 2020, only 180 samples were made to assess water quality.

In 2019, 394 lakes were analyzed and a quarter (106) were degraded.

Glacier tip

Our investigative office was aware that RSVL had asked to limit the number of water quality tests and instead encouraged measuring transparency.

“It’s not an unnecessary move, but it does not automatically give an adequate picture,” said Antoine Verville, general manager of the Recruitment des organizations.

Already, RSVL’s water quality analyzes are only the tip of the iceberg because they have not been detected, for example, by heavy metal pollution, as in the case of Osisco Lake in Ruin.

In 2019, following the release of our first ranking, Environment Minister Benoit Charett realized that follow-ups were low and sought to expand the network, which relied heavily on volunteers.

The lake is not listed

Due to the epidemic, no new lake will be added to the network by 2020. In 2021, there are 57 more. Of the 827 lakes in the RSVL, 662 lakes will be actively monitored this summer.

The number of lakes analyzed varies from year to year as volunteers pay out of pocket for the experiments. However, the ministry has announced that in the next few years, 75% of these costs will be taken up.

But the problem is the lack of support to act.

“If it’s been three years since our lake showed that it is in bad condition, what will happen next? There is no way to change things,” says Mr. Verville.

Citizens return to the municipality, but some have nearly a hundred bodies in their territory and no resources.

“It hangs with a book with volunteers,” says Janick Champagne, MRC Coticook’s environmental project officer. We have many lakes, but we do not have many resident associations. We need associations for orphaned lakes and the support of the ministry. “

Gets ground in Eurasian watermilfoil

Aggressive alien plants, including Eurasian watermilf, as you read in our Sunday articles get a fortune on the floor and cost associations.

Added to this is the fact that monitoring for cyanobacteria (blue-green algae) is rare. “There are no signs that the situation is improving,” explains Sebastian Chao, a professor of environmental chemistry at the University of Montreal.

“Our lakes are orphans, but they are a huge collective asset that brings in billions a year to the Quebec economy,” Jean-Claude Thibaut recalled.

“We say our lakes are a collective tradition, blue gold, we put them in all our tourism advertisements, but in the end, the money to solve the problems, not much,” he said. Verville.


  • This year, 17 lakes are in a very worrying state, compared to 18 last year. Two new lakes have been added to this list, namely Lake Noranda and Lake Bellettier. Leave three advanced and genre: Lock Ruin, Lock Coron and Lock Ox Creolets.
  • By 2020, seven of these lakes have no recent data, and seven lakes have only been tested for transparency and are less detailed than water quality analysis. They all had very cloudy water, which was a sign of their awful condition.
  • Of the 180 lakes tested in 2020, 26 saw their condition improve, 22 deteriorated and most, or 132, remained stable. By 2020, 183 lakes were in a state of disrepair, and by 2019 there would be 188.
  • According to our analysis, 566 lakes were tested for water transparency. Of the 683 stations sampled (there may be more than one station in a lake), 201 reported cloudy, very cloudy or very cloudy water, indicating that the lake is in poor condition.

Cyanobacteria: an increase in reports

Reports of cyanobacteria doubled by 2020, but researchers visited only 6 lakes, confirming the presence of blue-green algae.

Annabelle Place, Office of Inquiry

The number of reports increased from 61 to 151 between 2019 and 2020. Were there more cyanobacterial outbreaks? Or an increase in views due to the popularity of our lakes during an epidemic? Needless to say, Quebec will no longer have a record of affected watersheds from 2017 onwards.

In comparison, in 2007, the Ministry of Environment surveyed 275 lakes and confirmed the presence of cyanobacteria in 167 lakes.

Henceforth, a lake can only be studied if it is a “sensitive” body of water, for example if it is a source of drinking water or if the manifestation of the phenomenon is serious.

“They may have told themselves that moving our resources across Quebec every year to re-establish the presence of cyanobacteria is not the best public investment. Antoine Vervil, CEO of OBVs in Quebec, explains,” I do not follow that, but I can understand the logic.

Control sources

The ministry is now focusing on controlling the spread of sources of phosphorus pollution in agricultural areas or on municipal water treatment plants and septic systems.

During 2020-2021, 2,741 surveys were conducted in the agricultural sector and 1,060 surveys were conducted for wastewater treatment works.

“The negative impact is that we do not have a real picture of the lakes. We can not even know if the situation is improving, which is very bad,” says Mr. Verville.


If any analyst does not follow the reports, the danger is that people will feel abandoned, and they will be relaxed, experts say again.

Julie Grenier of the Saint-Franசois River Basin Water Management Committee explains: “The ministry changed its monitoring system, but we wanted to keep its portrait.

The organization is trying to appoint a resource person to the lake to report the presence of cyanobacteria.

“But people are undesirable and report them less … We’re trying to create electric shock to keep the momentum going,” he said.Me Grenier.

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