The City of Greater Sudbury says it has started a long process toward more safeguards for city lakes, including how it can more accurately pinpoint water quality.

At a meeting Monday night, Sudbury's environmental planning manager gave his report on lake quality. One of the big problems, he said, is the guide used by the province to determine water quality doesn't work very well.

According to Stephen Monet, the provincial model, which is the current standard, looks at a bunch of factors, and then makes a guess about how vulnerable a lake might be to phosphorous.

The problem? The model is often more than 20 per cent off.

"Increasingly, the model is producing what is outside of acceptable error,” Monet said. Essentially, the model doesn't work for many lakes."

The city's next step is to implement a better process for evaluating the well-being of lakes, he added.

In the coming months, there will be community consultations, and eventually recommendations on how to protect the lakes.

Exploring protection options

Planning manager Mark Simeoni said the report is just the beginning.

"Not to put too fine a point on this, this is a starting point for a long discussion. I recognize there is a lot of interest."

The report also classified 33 of Sudbury's lakes as needing "enhanced" protection from development, and another 142 needing "moderate" protection.

Neil Hutchinson, the consultant who wrote the report, said there are many possible safeguards the city can pursue.

"Saying no to development is one possible management outcome, [or] how much of the landscape you alter. You minimize the size of the house. You treat your storm water properly. All of these things can minimize the effect of development on water quality."

Hutchinson added it will be some time before formal recommendations are made about how the city should deal with the problem.