In lake, pond and fisheries management, nutrients are critically important. Nutrients are responsible for sustaining all living plants and animals in an aquatic ecosystem. If properly managed, nutrients can help community managers, private landowners, parks and recreation directors, golf course superintendents, and fishing enthusiasts get the most out of their waterbody. However, without a responsible nutrient management plan in place, nutrient levels can become excessive, potentially fueling nuisance and invasive aquatic plant growth, degrading water quality and even spurring the development of harmful algal blooms. To achieve the long-term goals for your waterbody while avoiding these problematic situations, it’s important to understand the benefits and complexities of nutrient management.
Nutrients come in many forms, but the two most common nutrients found in water are phosphorus and nitrogen. These nutrients are found naturally in sediment and are released by decomposing plant matter throughout the year. In balanced levels, these nutrients help aquatic ecosystems thrive, but when introduced to a lake or pond from outside sources, they can surpass the desirable threshold. Excess nutrients most often enter a waterbody through stormwater runoff. As water travels across roadways, sidewalks and other impervious surfaces during rainstorms, it picks up grass clippings, pet waste and residue from fertilizers. These and other pollutants are then transported to our lakes, rivers and stormwater ponds where they inadvertently become available to the entire food chain.
Chronic nutrient loading can lead to a plethora of water quality problems that may accelerate a waterbody’s rate of aging and threaten the health of your community. Recurring algae blooms and invasive species infestations fueled by excess nutrients can cause thick mats to develop on the surface of a waterbody, preventing the exchange of oxygen. In turn, this can cause massive fish kills while destroying desirable plants and beneficial zooplankton. The resulting decomposition of these organic materials will add additional nitrogen and phosphorous to the waterbody, continuing the disastrous nutrient loading cycle. If the negative cycle continues, the waterbody can accumulate bottom muck and sediment, therefore losing significant depths and volume over time.
Scarier still is the possibility of harmful algal bloom development. Cyanobacteria (also known as blue-green algae) is known to produce dangerous toxins under the right conditions. Exposure to these toxins through swimming and recreation around a plagued waterbody may be connected to the development of neurodegenerative diseases such as ALS, Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease. Like other forms of algae, cyanobacteria is often fueled by the presence of excess nutrients in the water column.
Thankfully, there are several ways to safely remove nutrients from your lake or stormwater pond. A patented product called Phoslock contains a unique lanthanum modified clay with a high affinity to permanently lock available phosphorous. Applications by a licensed professional can render phosphorous inactive and unable to transfer energy up the food chain. A similar product called Alum is also extremely effective at binding free radical nutrients before sinking them to the bottom of the waterbody where they can no longer fuel poor water quality conditions. While Alum is most suitable for use on large lakes, a new product called Biochar is changing the way we remove nutrients from smaller ponds and stormwater facilities that experience high water flow. Biochar is a highly adsorbent material very similar to activated charcoal. Contained in a large sock-like bag, this porous material allows water to flow through while pulling nutrients from the water. Once the bag is full, it is pulled from the water which physically removes the pollutants from the water column.
Nutrient mitigation strategies can be further enhanced by introducing dissolved oxygen into your waterbody. While floating fountains and submersed aeration systems provide many benefits that enhance circulation, balance pH, and optimize water quality, nanobubble technology is setting new standards for efficient nutrient elimination as well as direct algae and cyanotoxin control. This technology is EPA-registered, lab tested and proven to kill algae. The microscopic bubbles produced by these cutting-edge systems remain within the water column, rather than immediately rising and popping at the surface. As a result, dissolved oxygen levels are stabilized at desirable levels for 2-3 months at a time, often transforming the health and appearance of a waterbody in a matter of days or even hours without the use of traditional algaecides.
Each of these strategies can provide long-term mitigation of nutrients and prevention of nuisance plant and harmful algae growth. However, additional solutions should be implemented to prevent further nutrient loading. The application of beneficial bacteria via a process called biological augmentation may also provide lasting nutrient reduction. Beneficial bacteria are essentially probiotics for your waterbody; they help facilitate the degradation of the organic nutrient sources and consume excess nutrients. Likewise, vegetative buffers extending 3-5 feet around the shoreline of a lake or pond can be extremely effective at capturing and diluting nutrient-rich stormwater runoff before it reaches the waterbody. Your lake management professional can recommend appropriate buffer species that are native to your region. Finally, if erosion and sedimentation have become recurring issues on your property, shoreline restoration may be necessary. Bioengineered SOX solutions provide a lasting sediment containment barrier that integrates seamlessly into the shoreline—and the process can be paired with hydro-raking to remove muck and debris from the bottom of the waterbody, increasing overall depth and volume.
If you already implement these strategies in your private pond or community waterbody, it may already be on the road to success. However, it’s not always clear when a sudden spike in nutrients may occur. To ensure your waterbody continues meeting your goals, it’s important to complete professional water quality assessments on a recurring basis. Over time, water samples can reveal trends in water quality data, as well as potential nutrient loading problems before they get out of hand. With a close eye and a little professional insight, you can keep your waterbody on track to meet your needs for years to come.
Contact the experts at 888-480-LAKE (5253) for all of your lake, pond, wetland and fisheries management needs.
SOLitude Lake Management is a nationwide 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, shoreline erosion restoration, 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.