Written by Industry Expert Trent Nelson, Business Development Consultant & Aquatic Specialist
Everyone has heard the adage that no two snowflakes are the same, but did you know this truth also applies to your waterbody? No two lakes or ponds are the same—and location, size, water use, aquatic vegetation coverage and type, pond nutrient levels and water depth are all factors that can coincide in unique ways to influence the health of your waterbody. Oftentimes, odor and water color can reveal a lot, however, the unique characteristics of a lake or pond are not always this simple to observe. A professional lake manager tests water quality to capture and analyze the unique attributes that make up your waterbody and uses the data to create a totally customized lake or pond management plan. Many different parameters can be tested, but the basic values are pH, alkalinity, conductivity, dissolved oxygen, water temperature and nutrient levels. These parameters are of particular importance because they can help identify problem areas and significantly influence or help shape a management plan.
Water pH is a numeric scale that indicates how acidic or basic a waterbody is. This scale ranges from 0 to 14, with 7 being neutral. If a lake or pond’s pH fluctuates too high or low on the scale, it may lead to nuisance vegetation or algae growth and unhealthy fish, resulting in costly and time-consuming expenditures to bring balance back to the ecosystem. Throughout the day, many factors can cause water pH to fluctuate, such as natural photosynthesis and respiration from both plants and algae. pH can vary during different weather events and seasons, as well. Regular water quality testing can help aquatic resource management professionals determine whether or not a waterbody has a balanced pH, identify trends that affect water acidity over time, and define an effective solution. Many lakes and ponds greatly benefit from seasonal lime applications, which help correct the chemical balance of the waterbody.
Alkalinity is the capability of a waterbody to neutralize or buffer acidic conditions. Like pH, a number of factors can affect water alkalinity, although these levels don’t swing as greatly. However, alkalinity can vary greatly from pond to pond, and significantly based on geography. Knowledge of alkalinity is extremely important for lake and pond management professionals because it can help accurately determine treatment levels when using certain types of algaecides. For homeowners associations and businesses, it’s often critical to achieve effective results as quickly as possible, without negatively affecting lawns and ornamental vegetation.
Conductivity refers to the water’s ability to carry an electrical current. The results of a conductivity test can reveal the concentration of electrolytes (dissolved salts) present. Every waterbody will have a baseline conductivity depending on the geology and soil type. Like alkalinity, water conductivity tends to remain stable over time, so immense changes may mean the waterbody has been polluted by stormwater runoff or sewage. These indicators may help determine if a lake or pond is suitable for irrigation and recreation, and offer direction for the most appropriate management strategies for the waterbody.
Dissolved oxygen (DO) within a waterbody is vital for the health of native aquatic plants, beneficial organisms and fish. Likewise, poor DO levels can lead to the growth of nuisance plant species, like watermeal and duckweed. Dissolved oxygen is typically lowest in the morning after periods of darkness. Before daybreak, pond algae and plants expel carbon dioxide and use oxygen. Then, morning sunlight can start the photosynthesis process for the day. Because DO levels rely heavily on the weather and seasons, they can vary greatly or quickly drop to unhealthy levels without proactive management. For example, if DO is already low, a string of cloudy days can cause large-scale fish kills.
Water temperatures change depending on the season and regional weather patterns, and this can help reveal a lot about an aquatic ecosystem and its ability to sustain life. In lakes and ponds used for fishing, temperature is an incredibly important parameter that dictates fish stocking times and productivity—and can help predict when a fish kill is most likely to occur. Many types of bacteria, plants and algae thrive in this climate, making summer the easiest time of year to also determine contamination levels in a waterbody. Because they are so intricately linked, professional analysis of temperature often goes hand in hand with dissolved oxygen; as a general rule of thumb – the more water temperatures rise, the more dissolved oxygen is depleted.
Water quality testing can reveal whether or not a waterbody is suffering from an influx of excess nutrients. High levels of phosphorous and nitrogen, which often enter irrigation ponds through stormwater runoff, are the largest contributing factors to algae growth. Fortunately, there are a number of nutrient remediation and flocculant products that can decrease the amount of free reactive nutrients available to fuel nuisance plant and algae development. If water quality tests determine a waterbody is nutrient-heavy or eutrophic, then professional nutrient remediation is recommended. Soil tests may also reveal that there is excess phosphorus present. If so, only fertilizers that are free of phosphorous should be used during grow periods. A professional lake manager can offer a number of personalized treatment options based on the unique characteristics of your waterbody.
Altogether, these water quality parameters can be used to establish a baseline of health for your lake or pond and indicate areas that may require some attention. If nutrient levels are deemed too high, your lake manager may recommend applying Phoslock or Alum to capture and bind excess nutrients and prevent them from fueling nuisance aquatic weeds or harmful algal blooms. If dissolved oxygen levels are too low to sustain health fish populations, it’s worth considering the introduction of a floating fountain or submersed aeration system to help create regular circulation and maintain consistent temperatures throughout the waterbody. Just as no two waterbodies are alike, neither are any two management strategies. No matter the water quality improvement areas identified, a custom approach can help pave the way for a healthy, balanced and beautiful future.
Contact the experts at 888-480-LAKE (5253) for all of your lake, pond, wetland and fisheries management needs.
Trent Nelson is a business development consultant serving clients in SOLitude’s Southern market. Trent focuses on helping clients maintain a balance between healthy aquatic ecosystems and has a special interest in the management of algae and aquatic weeds in private ponds, stormwater systems and golf course lakes. He also enjoys interacting with his clients and educating them on sustainable management techniques. Trent worked as an Aquatic Specialist for three years and has developed valuable field knowledge on treating and maintaining a wide array of aquatic ecosystems across North and South Carolina.
SOLitude Lake Management is an environmental firm committed to providing sustainable solutions that improve water quality, enhance beauty, preserve natural resources and reduce our environmental footprint. SOLitude’s team of aquatic resource management professionals specializes in the development and execution of customized lake, pond, wetland and fisheries management programs that include water quality testing and restoration, nutrient remediation, algae and aquatic weed control, installation and maintenance of fountains and aeration systems, bathymetry, mechanical harvesting and hydro-raking, lake vegetation studies, biological assessments, habitat evaluations, and invasive species management. Services and educational resources are available to clients nationwide, including homeowners associations, multi-family and apartment communities, golf courses, commercial developments, ranches, private landowners, reservoirs, recreational and public lakes, municipalities, drinking water authorities, parks, and state and federal agencies. Learn more about SOLitude Lake Management and purchase products at www.solitudelakemanagement.com.