Alberta Lake Management Society Newsletter

April 2013
Report: Alberta Health Services (AHS) Recreational Water Monitoring Program, 2012 Summary

Each summer Alberta Health Services (AHS) conducts routine water sampling of recreational waters, to establish baseline water quality levels, identify water quality problems, and to manage any associated health risk.


In 2012, AHS monitored 36 lakes and 57 public beaches across the province for fecal coliforms and cyanobacteria. They also partnered with Alberta Environment and Sustainable Resource Development (ESRD) to test for microsystin toxins in fish tissue.


Lake Sampling 2012:

During the summer season, 2012, about 1,743 water samples were collected from lakes across the province and submitted to the Provincial Laboratory for bacteriological testing (complete list here). About 1,746 lake water samples across Alberta were submitted for cyanobacteria testing. Rapid microcystin test strips (Elisa test strips) were used in the field to assist with the visual inspections.


This program was overseen by the Alberta Cyanobacteria Monitoring Program (cross ministry program) that includes: Alberta Health, Alberta Environment and Sustainable Resource Development (ESRD), Alberta Health Services, Toxicological Laboratory, Provincial Lab, and University of Alberta. It created a Science Advisory Committee (SAC) of the Alberta Cyanobacteria Monitoring Program whose main objective is to provide recommendations on cyanobacteria monitoring and the public health advisory process.  AHS Program 2012


Fish Sampling 2012:

Alberta Centre for Toxicology Laboratory received 521 fish samples from ESRD. Fish were caught from 10 lakes of 2012 AHS BGA Advisory lakes, 2 lakes as negative controls and one lake under BGA Advisory in 2011 (Wizard Lake). The species of fish tested by the lab were: Walleye, Northern Pike, Lake White Fish, Yellow Perch, Rainbow/Brown trout, and Cisco. AHS is using the Health Canada (HC) Recreational Water Guidelines, 2012, for assessing public beaches for cyanobacterial blooms:

  • Microcystins < 20 g/L
  • Cell Counts < 100,000 cell/ml
  • Fish (based on HC Drinking Water Quality Guideline) , Mycrocistin- LR <14ng/g (ppb)

2012 Lake Water Sample Results:

During the summer season, AHS issued 17 Blue-green Algae (BGA) Health Advisory across the province, based on visual observation of the algal blooms. The water sample data collected provided strong evidence that visual inspection is an effective tool for issuing public health advisory. All the lakes under advisory (with a visual bloom) had water samples that exceeded Health Canada Guidelines for either cell counts or microcystins. Based on bacteriological testing, AHS issued 5 Contaminated Water Health Advisories across the province, for elevated fecal coliform levels.

Lakes Under Advisory 2012


Advisories were placed as early as June 30 (Baptiste) and as late as September 1 (Skeleton). There is currently an advisory in place for Fork Lake for a bloom trapped in the ice.


2012 Fish Sampling Results:

So far, fish (walleye and Lake White Fish) muscle tissue from 7 lakes (Baptiste lake, Eagle Lake, Keho Lake, Lac La Nonne, Moose Lake, Pigeon Lake, Sylvan Lake) have been analyzed for microcystins. No detectable level of microcystin was observed in fish muscle tissue in any of the assessed lakes. Analyses of liver and mucle tissues of other species are in progress.


AHS Recreational Water Monitoring Program 2013 Summer Season Recommendations:

  • Lakes under Health Advisory in 2012 and previous year will be included in the AHS routine monitoring program.
  • Laboratory analysis of beach water samples for:
    • Microcystins (Alberta Centre for Toxicology)
    • Cyanobacteria enumeration and taxonomy - cell counts (U of Alberta)
    • Cyanotoxin gene -Q-PCR method - early detection and prediction of toxin producing cyanobacteria in recreational water
    • Bacteriological analysis- Fecal coliforms
  • Fish:
    • People can safely consume fish fillets from lakes affected by blue-green algae. However, it is known that fish may store toxins in their liver; therefore people may wish to limit their consumption of whole fish and trimmings.
    • Animals should not consume whole fish or trimmings from affected lakes.
    • Continue testing for microcystin, in liver and muscle tissues of other species  

Posting Blue-green Algae Information Signs:

  • The information signs will be posted at beach locations and other public locations year round for lakes with at least 3 years history of BGA blooms
  • For lakes with less than 3 years history of BGA blooms the info signs will be posted from May to October

Posting a BGA Health Advisory Signs:

  • Public Health Advisory Signs will be posted next to the BGA Information Signs, after the BGA Health Advisory was issued by Alberta Health Services
  • The BGA Health Advisory Signage will be removed at the end of the season. The lake water will be tested (cell counts and toxicity) prior of removing the signage to ensure there is no health risk. 
If an individual sees evidence of a cyanobacteria bloom, call the nearest Environmental Health Officer to report it and request the public beach of your lake be sampled. All advisories are posted on the AHS Active Health Advisories webpage. All lakes to be monitored in 2013 will be announced closer to the beach season.


Article Submitted by: Maria Precup, Alberta Health Services

Health Impacts of Cyanobacteria Blooms
For more information on the human health risks associated with blue green algae blooms you can download Dr Ron Zurawell's presentation from our Mar 19th event here

A printable factsheet is also available from Alberta Health Services.
Last Chance to Join the Conversation
Canoe The Water Conversation is being wrapped up this week, deadline April 12. If you haven't already, please fill in the online workbook available on the water conversation website.
LakeWatch Lakes 2013
ALMS has three groups of LakeWatch lakes (headings below) with the maximum number sampled per year in brackets.
Base Lakes (10)
Lac Ste Anne
Mayatan (2 basins)
Ghost Reservoir
Upper Chain
Beaver River Watershed (10)
Floating Stone
Skeleton North
Skeleton South

Provincial Parks (5)
Two additional LakeWatch projects are happening this year. We are working with ESRD and PLWA to conduct enhanced sampling of Pigeon Lake to prepare a nutrient budget. Long term, we would like to provide this service to other lakes as well. Also, the MD of Wainwright contracts ALMS to monitor the water quality of Clear Lake and Arm Lake. This year Clear is being sampled.
Thank you to everyone who contacted us to sample your lake! We have filled all the spots for 2013 but will add your name to the list for 2014. 
To learn more about LakeWatch you can watch this Prezi or visit
LakeWatch Reports will be posted in two weeks!
Like us on Facebook Follow us on Twitter

We are finishing up analysis of 2012 LakeWatch data and writing the reports. The link to the reports will be posted on our website and social media channels soon so please stay tuned.
Volunteer Appreciation Week
2013 Volunteer Week
Many thanks to our dedicated ALMS volunteers. 
This year we started an award for LakeWatch Volunteer of the Year. In 2012 the award went to Terry Noble at Lac Sante.
News and Events
Earth Matters Conference
Environmental Education Conference (click on picture for details). April 25-27, 2013 Canmore.
Earth Day Canada. April 22. Many Alberta events ALMS will be at the Evansburg Earth Day Expo at the Pembina Rec-Plex on Apr 21. Join us or come for the free Pancake Breakfast at 10 am!  
WPAC Information & Events
 Mighty Peace Watershed Alliance - Annual Report 2012.
Beaver River Watershed Alliance - Spring Newsletter
Upcoming events: AGM Tues Apr 16, 5:30 pm at La Corey, Willow Praire Hall. Fisheries info session: Apr 11, 6-8 pm at Glendon. 
Red Deer April 18
Medicine Hat May 2 
Bow Basin Policy Forum "Approaches to addressing land use development and planning processes to manage for
water quality objectives"
Apr 26, Calgary

South East Alberta Watershed Alliance - News from the Watershed, April edition