Elizabeth Daigneau is GOVERNING's managing editor.E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
Nearly 1,000 lakes across the country are having their health tested for the first time in years, as states and localities take part in a first-of-its-kind survey by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
The first phase of the "Survey of the Nation's Lakes" is wrapping up this month. Local, state and federal biologists are turning over water samples from 909 lakes--natural and man-made freshwater lakes, ponds and reservoirs greater than 10 acres and at least one meter in depth-- to the EPA for testing and analysis. The goal of the survey, which will be conducted every five years, is to figure out what percentage of the nation's lakes are in good, fair or poor condition for ecological, water quality and recreational indicators as well as to assess how widespread key stressors such as nitrogen, phosphorus and acidification pollution are across the 50 states.
To get consistent measures of a lake's water quality, the U.S. EPA sent biologists out to teach state and local scientists new national testing methods that include measuring temperature, water clarity, the existence of important microscopic animal life such as zooplankton and phytoplankton, and the presence of bacteria contamination from animals and humans.
"A lot of the sampling that the EPA is having us do is something we are unfamiliar with," says Linda Merchant-Masonbrink, an environmental specialist with Ohio's EPA. Ohio is using the survey to kick off a new statewide sampling program of all of its 5,000 lakes and is likely to incorporate measures it learns from the feds into its sampling. The EPA's state-by-state lake report is due in 2009.