Establishing baseline limnological conditions in Baker Lake, Nunavut

N.J. Hutchinson, K.R. Hadley, R.A. Nesbitt, and L. Manzo

The Baker Lake Cumulative Effects Monitoring Program — also known as “Inuu’tuti” — uses both western science and Inuit Qaujimajatuqangit. The program measures any changes in Baker Lake and the waters flowing into it. These changes can result from mining activities, the way the land is used, or the warming climate.

Baker Lake is a typical large Arctic lake. It is cold, low in nutrients, has plenty of oxygen for fish, and metals are very low. This project measured baseline water quality in the lake during two open water surveys in August 2015 and 2017 and one under-ice survey in May 2016. Knowing the current conditions will help to understand changes in the future. Two items of concern for residents were measured:

  • a “fishy” taste in the water; and
  • a salty taste in the water.

The fishy taste is likely caused by a type of golden algae. These microscopic plants release substances that create a “fishy” taste and odour in the water at certain times of the year.

The salty taste is noticed when low lake levels and high tides or winds at Chesterfield Inlet allow ocean water to spill into Baker Lake. The ocean water mixes with surface waters, leading to a salty taste. This was also documented in a scientific study in 1965. The results of this project showed that there was always some ocean water at depth in the lake. However, the amount of ocean water and the depth it occurred at changed over the seasons and between years.

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