Lake Advocates’ Workshops

Lake Advocates is leading 2 workshops at the upcoming NALMS symposium: Alum for Phosphorus Control in Lakes and Ponds (all day, Oct. 30) and Lake Management Best Practices: Overview of Common Problems and Effective Management Strategies and Technologies(afternoon, Oct. 30). See: ( for information. Hope to see you there.

Each workshop participant will also receive Lake Advocates Publishers’ book on managing algae problems and alum – see links on this site to learn more or purchase the books.

600 Books Now in Circulation!

Wow. We now have over 600 copies of our books in the “Lake Management Best Practices” series in circulation. thanks to the New York State Federation of Lake Association ( for providing copies to their annual meeting participants. Get your copy of “Managing Algae Problems” or Alum for Phosphorus control in Lakes and Ponds” soon. We have made these affordable so they get widespread circulation.

Lake Advocates Co-Founder’s Major Award

Congratulations to Harry Gibbons, awarded the Washington State Lake Protection Association’s (WALPA) Secchi Disk Award.


“In 2017 the Board is honored to present the Secchi Disk Award to Harry Gibbons! Harry’s long career in lake and reservoir restoration and management (not to mention all the stream and river restoration work) has been devoted to bettering the science of lake management and advocating for lake protection in Washington State and across the United States. Harry was a founding member of WALPA and has served on the WALPA board both as a director and President in 1990. Harry also served on the NALMS (North American Lake Management Society) board of directors for three different terms, one as President Elect, President and Past President. In 2012, Harry was recognized by NALMS and given their Secchi Disk Award for his outstanding technical contributions and service to help promote lake management. This year WALPA is proud to follow suit and Harry was unanimously voted to be the recipient of our annual award of recognition.”

Watershed BMPs Do Not Restore Polluted Lakes

Dick Osgood, co-founder of Lake Advocates, has authored a scientific publication, Inadequacy of best management practices for restoring eutrophic lakes in the United States: Guidance for policy and practice, published in Inland Waters, the journal of the International Society of Limnology (available at: ).

Inland Waters is a peer-reviewed, scholarly journal for original papers that advance lake science and promotes the understanding and sound management of aquatic ecosystems,” according to Dr. Jack Jones, Editor of Inland Waters.

Lake quality in the United States (US) has not significantly changed since the establishment of the Clean Water Act in 1972. Eutrophication, the enrichment of lakes by nutrients through pollution, has been and continues to be problematic, mostly by impairing lakes aesthetically as well as impacting public health. Early success occurred in the nation’s largest lakes following the treatment or diversion of sewage inputs. However, there were an equal number of failures – cases where lake quality did not improve.

There are many more lakes in the US not impacted by sewage. In these lakes, agricultural and urban runoff supplies the excess nutrients, especially phosphorus (P). Thus, the restoration paradigm has focused on reducing pollution in runoff. Runoff pollution is also known as nonpoint source pollution.

Mitigating runoff pollution has relied mainly on Best Management Practices, or BMPs, which are landscape features that intercept runoff. Examples of BMPs include detention ponds, restored wetlands, filter strips and buffers.

According to Osgood, “There are precious few cases where watershed management emphasizing BMPs have resulted in lakes improving and meeting water quality standards.” This is due to the induced changes in these lakes where either internal phosphorus loading has become significant or watershed phosphorus loading from runoff is excessive, 10 to 20 times greater than pre-land-use background conditions – often both occur.

In most cases, restoring eutrophic lakes requires P reductions of 80% or more. Osgood found that BMPs, individually and categorically, fell far short of this. This explains the lack of positive outcomes.

Osgood found that P removal efficiency, the percentage of inflowing P retained, was inadequate for restoring lakes, and in many cases, inadequate for improving lake quality. By evaluating published studies, Osgood found that BMP efficiency was over-stated due to uncertain or limited data, based on inappropriate metrics, misapplying performance from different regions, or projecting long-term performance from short-term studies. In addition, watershed managers often rely on overly optimistic performance measures and seldom conduct field validations.

According to G. Dennis Cooke of Kent State University and Eugene B. Welch of the University of Washington. “Richard Osgood makes an important, evidence-based, point in this manuscript about BMPs and lake management. With regular maintenance, some BMPs are valuable and necessary lake protectors, but alone are unlikely to produce a timely return of a eutrophic lake to a significantly less productive state, especially if residual sediment P internal loading persists. In our view, if external loading has been sharply reduced, sediment P release is usually the next target.”

Osgood estimates that under ideal conditions, BMPs may achieve 50% P reductions, but to do so, many stars need to align. 50% P reductions may be possible if BMPs are a) selected, designed and constructed according to strict criteria, b) maintained regularly, and c) deployed throughout the watershed. As these conditions seldom occur in practice, Osgood found that 25% P reductions are more likely to be the best in real world conditions –  well short of the 80% reductions that are required.

Dr. Harry Gibbons, Lake Advocates co-founder says, “Dick and I founded Lake Advocates to help assure that our nation’s lakes are protected and restored using tools and techniques that are based on sound science. This paper embodies our philosophy as it has been subject to the highest standard of scientific rigor.”

Osgood describes two alternative approaches to restore polluted lakes that are more effective, faster and often, cheaper.

Many eutrophic lakes are unresponsive to reductions in nutrient inputs due to the accumulation of nutrients in the lake muds, which recycles back into the lake in the summer. Chemical precipitants have been shown to effectively mitigate recycled P, allowing lakes to recover. Such treatments are safe, quick and cost-effective – often a small fraction of BMP costs.

Engineered or chemically-enhanced treatment systems placed at the mouth of polluted inflows have led to P reductions of 90% or more, often sufficient to restore polluted lakes. These systems function like on-shore (or near-shore) water treatment plants. On a per pound basis, these systems are often much cheaper than BMPs.

Osgood recommends changes in policy that emphasize these other approaches for more effective, outcome-based lake management. BMPs may be used to as supplements to, but not substitutes for, an overall approach for restoring polluted lakes.  BMPs have been effective in preventing eutrophication in some cases.

As in Minnesota, lakes in the US poorly protected.

An article in today’s business section (, highlights Minnesota’s water management challenges, which will likely intensify in the face of federal inattention. The author argues Minnesota’s water management is overly bureaucratic, confused and entrenched. While offering no solutions, the author suggests that with crises comes opportunities.

Minnesota is not alone in the US. Our nation’s lakes face similar challenges and there is no overarching policy, system or leadership in place to address this.

In Minnesota and elsewhere, local leadership is the key. Large-scale programs focusing on vague watershed management solutions have not been effective. A recent EPA National Lakes Assessment found there has been no net change in lake quality in the nation’s lakes since the enactment of the Clean Water Act. As Einstein said, “You can’t solve a problem with the same mind that created it.”

There are other approaches that are effective.


Salty Lakes

It’s about time this effect was well documented see: Center for Limnology Salt Study

What would we expect? Adding a highly soluble, conservative pollutant will runoff into and accumulate in lakes.

This is not new news. My studies of metro lakes in the 1980s also documented this. It got no traction (excuse the pun) as safety trumped contaminating lakes (and streams and groundwater …).

I published a blog, copied below, called Salt and Mirrors following a plea to use less slat in the Twin Cities several years ago.

[From December 2014]

Salt is bad for our lakes.  Chloride, the offending element in salt, has been accumulating in metro lakes for the past half century, corresponding to the use of de-icing road salt.  This is an insidious kind of pollution because its impacts are gradual.  Yet, increases in chlorides affects the entire lake food chain, favors undesirable, even toxic, algae species and gives aquatic invasive species an additional edge over native species.

So, when public agencies and other environmental organizations call for individuals to use less salt on our sidewalks and driveways, that is good, right?

Of course it is.

But we are looking at this the wrong way.  If we want to stop the increasing chloride pollution to our lakes, moderating individuals’ salty behavior will not accomplish this.

Metro road salt use is 700 million pounds per season.  Seventy percent – 70% – of this ends up in our water.  This is the elephant in the room and until we recognize this, urging changes in individuals’ behavior deflects the issue.

The real issue is we have made a choice – dry winter roads in exchange for polluting our lakes.  Our transportation agencies are on a mission to reduce deicing salt use, but using less just means we are polluting our lakes more slowly.

A main theme in A Lake Manager’s Notebook (discontinued), is our lack of attention to quantifiable objectives.  Agencies’ salt reduction goals are stated in terms of less, but not in terms of exactly how much less.  Lacking specific targets, how do we know if our lakes are really being protected?

Our lake management institutions have adopted a self-empowerment ethic for protecting our lakes.  In this context, I often see reference to the old Pogo cartoon with the caption, “We have met the enemy and he is us.”  This makes me cringe because it implies individuals (us) are the enemy of lakes while at the same time distancing our institutions from addressing the underlying systemic problems.

Chloride pollution to lakes (also groundwater, wetlands, rivers and streams) is a bona fide, pervasive problem and its overwhelming source is road salt.  Mitigating road salt use will not be easy, because convenient, cheap alternatives do not exist.  However, deflecting the onus to citizens and away from agencies is wrong-minded.

So what do we do?

I think we need to shift our attitude and approach to something that more realistically recognizes our societal choices so we can live with and best manage their consequences. I don’t see that we will significantly change road salt use any time soon.  Of course, citizens should reduce their use of de-icing salt, mostly because we can.  More importantly however, citizens, through our institutions should address these concerns more comprehensively and as a matter of public policy.  An involved citizenry can make good public policy choices when given accurate information.  I don’t see the benefit of delusion.