Lake Ontario, ON - Claire Lawson
My Watermark is based on my torn love for Lake Ontario and how Waterkeeper’s Swim Guide App has helped to strengthen that love.
In 2005, I moved away from Canada’s west coast to study Environmental Sciences at Queen’s University. Having always been an avid sailor, rower, and general water-enthusiast, the thought of living by a great lake thrilled me and I was excited to acquaint myself with Lake Ontario. As soon as I arrived in Kingston, I signed up for the sailing, rowing, and triathlon teams at the university and “jumped aboard” this grand new adventure.
After a few weeks of sailing and rowing on the lake, my love for the water in Lake Ontario was put to a test. As I was learning more about the history of the Great Lakes, I came to understand their environmental state and our environmental negligence. Naturally, I started questioning the water’s quality and my dependence on it. The more I drank the water, studied, sailed, swam, and rowed on Lake Ontario, the more mixed feelings emerged within me. Soon after my first year in Kingston, I made the sad and active decision to not swim (voluntarily) in this beautiful lake. I made this decision largely because I did not have access to enough information to relieve my water quality concerns. Although I continued to sail and row on the lake throughout my time at Queen’s, I was not confident that the water was clean enough for me to swim in regularly. This realization not only made me sad and frustrated, but it also empowered me to pursue a career in managing and protecting our waters. Once my time at Queen’s came to an end, I decided to study a Master of Science in Environmental Management and Policy in Sweden.
Roughly ten years later in 2015, my Swedish fiancé and I decided to move to Toronto and live by Lake Ontario once again. Given that we were both newcomers who loved the water and wanted to enjoy hot summer days by (and in) the water, I decided to investigate the cleanliness of Lake Ontario once again. I wanted to find information that could help me identify water areas that were the cleanest to safely swim in near Toronto. To my pleasant surprise, I located Waterkeeper’s Swim Guide App and found myself using it throughout that very first summer in Toronto. During that time, I used the app to identify safe beaches and we became regular swimmers near Scarborough Bluffs Park. Although I am aware that the water quality in that area is not perfect and that there is much work to be done by the City of Toronto, I am thankful that we could make an informed decision to swim in cleaner water close to Toronto and feel safe about it.
Waterkeeper’s Swim Guide App now provides me with enough immediate and reliable information to choose a clean water area for us to go swimming, sailing, and rowing. As a result, my love for Lake Ontario has strengthened now that I know that tests are performed regularly and that I have access to the results as well as other information. Although the lake still needs more attention and environmental protection, I am happy to say that I can now actively choose to swim in accessible, clean waters, with up-to-date information near Toronto.
Thank you, Lake Ontario Waterkeeper. Keep up the great work and keep people connected to water!