It was a pretty bad year all around for the lakes and ponds of our area. Nearly 80% of the waterbodies LEA tests had below average water clarity. Almost 75% of the lakes sampled had above average algae concentrations as measured by chlorophyll readings. The nutrient phosphorus, which is the controlling factor for algae populations, was also higher than the long-term average on 70% of the lakes we test. In fact, many of our lakes had unusually high phosphorus readings this past summer. Clarity, phosphorus and chlorophyll are the three parameters that tell the most about water quality conditions in a lake and they are often used together to assess the overall health of the ecosystem. In 2012, 54% of the lakes we test had worse conditions for all three of these parameters. None of the lakes we test had better than average conditions for these three criteria. The immediate cause of these universally poor conditions was likely the unusual weather conditions. Through March and most of April, fire danger was very high as we experienced drought conditions. This is normally the time of year when lakes and groundwater recharge. This caused early season Secchi disk readings to be abnormally clear but that all came to an end with a very rainy June punctuated with two mega-storms. The saturated soils that these storms hit had no room for extra water and severe flooding and erosion ensued. The sediment that entered the lakes immediately began reducing clarity and the attached nutrients began feeding algae, which further clouded our waters. However, blaming the weather alone for the poor water quality conditions of 2012 would miss some of the bigger picture. Almost all the severe erosion that occurred was from developed areas. If we want to protect our lakes and ponds, we must begin to upgrade our stormwater infrastructure to withstand the larger and more frequent rain events that are now becoming the norm.
To find out the most recent water quality information about your lake please download LEA's 2012 Water Testing Report.