NALMS and Lake Eutrophication Standards

Through the years, NALMS has been at the forefront of discussions on the need for lake eutrophication standards and promotion of scientific approaches for developing such standards. One of NALMS’s earliest efforts in the late 1980’s was formation of a task force to look at water quality standards for lakes. The task force had a broad membership and included NALMS members from states, USEPA, Tennessee Valley Authority, and other entities. To evaluate the current use and perceived need for lake water quality standards the task force conducted a survey of the state water program administrators.

The survey posed four main questions:

  1. Are lake water quality standards needed?
  2. How are such standards used now or how would they be used if adopted?
  3. What data is needed for developing lake water quality standards?
  4. Should lake-specific criteria be included for toxic contaminants?
Results from the survey were summarized in a 1988 publication “Water Quality Standards for Lakes: A Survey.” Forty-seven states responded to the survey. Of those, about one-half indicated they had some standards that dealt with eutrophication but most were narrative. In most cases, the few numeric standards that did exist were often drawn from the literature, rather than state monitoring data. In general, most states were dissatisfied with their ability to judge the quality of their lakes. In some instances, this was because of the number and diversity of the lakes, in many states it was due to the absence of routine monitoring programs. Many states pointed out they had insufficient funds for lake monitoring. While States were opposed to requirements to develop eutrophication standards, they did look to EPA for assistance in funding lake monitoring and technical assistance for lake assessment.

As the interest in developing eutrophication standards continued at a national level, NALMS saw the need to provide information that could help inform those discussions and decisions that would follow. A Lake Standards Sub-committee was formed in 1989 and included representatives from states, EPA, TVA, and consulting firms. The purpose was to assemble and summarize existing information on eutrophication criteria and standards. They sought a broad array of approaches and experience on this topic and included examples from seven states, a regional water resource management agency (TVA), a Canadian Province (British Columbia), and the International Joint Commission. In 1992, a report entitled “Developing Eutrophication Standards for Lakes and Reservoirs” summarized the findings from this effort. This report provided a rich summary of the approaches used to date and those under consideration by states and other entities. This document served as a valuable resource to the states and was frequently cited by EPA in subsequent nutrient criteria guidance.

NALMS has remained active on this front with focused sessions at the international symposia and through articles published in Lake and Reservoir Management. Virtually every issue of LRM has a paper of importance to setting eutrophication standards, and recent issues that have papers specifically on lake standards development include Volume 28(1) in 2012, Volume 27(2) in 2011, and Volume 25(1 and 2) in 2009.

NALMS also offers the following free publications (Please note these documents are large and may take a moment to download):