Who We Are

In a time of growing populations and a rapidly changing climate, our nations are struggling to respond to challenges to their fresh water.

Download the IISD Experimental Lakes Area brochure here.

These include the impacts of climate change, agricultural runoff, water management, contaminants such as mercury and organic pollutants, and a growing list of new chemical substances.

IISD Experimental Lakes Area (IISD-ELA) is an exceptional natural laboratory comprised of 58 small lakes and their watersheds set aside for scientific research.

Located in a sparsely populated region of Northwestern Ontario, Canada, the lakes in the region are not affected by human impacts. By manipulating these small lakes, scientists are able to examine how all aspects of the ecosystem—from the atmosphere to fish populations—respond. Findings from these real-world experiments are often much more accurate than those from research conducted at smaller scales, such as in laboratories.

This unique research approach has influenced billion-dollar decisions of governments and industries. It has generated more cost-effective environmental policies, regulations and management, all to ensure the safety of our freshwater supplies.

IISD Experimental Lakes Area—the world’s freshwater laboratory—conducts research on whole lake ecosystems.

The International Institute for Sustainable Development (IISD) is now proud to operate this world-class facility. Since we took over operation in 2014, we have already initiated new ecosystem-based science, responding to today’s threats to our water; collaborations and partnerships with outside researchers and universities; and educational activities that promote and build capacity for freshwater science and policy action in Canada and around the world.

IISD’s independent, evidence-based approach to the development of policy recommendations and tools complements the facility’s strong scientific foundation. IISD and the ELA working together strengthens efforts to address global freshwater issues by directly applying world-class scientific research to create innovative policy solutions for regional and global water management.