Winnipeg scientists are upset that a key research project will be shut down as part of federal government cutbacks.

The Experimental Lakes Area, a series of 58 pristine lakes, is considered to be one of Canada's most important aquatic research areas.

Started in 1968, the ELA is also internationally known for research into everything from acid rain to climate change to fish farming — essentially, all the ways that human activity can affect freshwater systems.

But the facility, located in northwestern Ontario and administered out of the Freshwater Institute in Winnipeg, is being closed at end of the fiscal year, March 2013.

This is where scientists, led by David Schindler, discovered that phosphates in detergents and household products were causing lakes to turn green with algae. It led to international changes in ingredients for those products.

He says the loss is devastating.

"It is the only facility in the world where you can test management policies for pollutants or changes in how fisheries are managed and things in a whole ecosystem environment," he said.

Schindler, the former director, said he knew the program could be in jeopardy as job cuts across the country were announced.

"Still I was surprised that it was as sudden and as complete as they have announced."