Muskegon Lake Water Quality Dashboard

water quality monitoring

The Muskegon Lake Long-Term Monitoring Program began in 2003, in an effort to observe and document changes in the ecological health of Muskegon Lake and provide the data needed to remove Muskegon Lake from the list of Great Lakes Areas of Concern (AOC). As part of the program, the lake is sampled 3 times per year for a suite of biological, physical, and chemical parameters.

Muskegon Lake buoy observatory

As a complement to the long-term monitoring program, the Muskegon Lake Observatory was established in 2011. The observatory consists of a buoy system that collects continuous water quality, hydrology, and meteorological data during the ice-free period.

Key water quality indicators were selected from these datasets to create a water quality dashboard for Muskegon Lake. The goal of the dashboard is to provide a visual representation of the current status and historical trends in Muskegon Lake water quality, by rating each indicator along a scale from desirable (green) to undesirable (red) conditions. Each scale also includes a category that indicates the water quality goal for the lake is being met (yellow).

The indicators shown below are commonly used to assess water quality. We selected total phosphorus, chlorophyll a, Secchi disk depth, and dissolved oxygen to assess lake status, from among the many parameters that we monitor. Each indicator is described in more detail below.

Total Phosphorus

As one of the key nutrients that fuel algal growth, phosphorus concentrations can indicate the potential for a lake to sustain undesirable algal blooms. The phosphorus dashboard was created by calculating annual average total phosphorus (TP) concentrations measured in the surface water of the 6 long-term monitoring stations. Historical data collected by the US EPA (Freedman et al. 1979) are included as a reference point for historical conditions.

Current Status (2013)

TP dashboard

Total Phosphorus Concentration, μg/L

The current status for the total phosphorus indicator is Desirable, meaning that the average TP concentration in 2013 was lower (i.e., better) than the water quality goal.

Historical Status (1972, 2003-2013)

TP dashboard

 

Data sources: Freedman et al. (1979); Muskegon Lake Long-term Monitoring Program, Steinman et al. (2008) and A. Steinman/M. Ogdahl (unpublished data)

Chlorophyll a

Chlorophyll a is the green pigment found in photosynthetic algae. Measuring chlorophyll a is one way to estimate the amount of algal biomass present in lake water. The chlorophyll a dashboard was created by calculating annual average chlorophyll a concentrations measured in the surface water of the 6 long-term monitoring stations. Historical data collected by the US EPA (Freedman et al. 1979) are included as a reference point for historical conditions.

Current Status (2013)

Chl dashboard

Chlorophyll a Concentration, μg/L

The current status for the chlorophyll a indicator is Desirable, meaning that the average chlorophyll a concentration in 2013 was lower (i.e., better) than the water quality goal.

Historical Status (1972, 2003-2013)

Chl dashboard

 

Data sources: Freedman et al. (1979); Muskegon Lake Long-term Monitoring Program, Steinman et al. (2008) and A. Steinman/M. Ogdahl (unpublished data)

Secchi Disk Depth (Water Clarity)

Secchi disk depth is an estimate of water clarity, measured using a standard black and white disk. Low water clarity can be the result of algal biomass or suspended particulate matter. The Secchi depth dashboard was created by calculating annual average Secchi depths measured at the 6 long-term monitoring stations. Historical data collected by the US EPA (Freedman et al. 1979) are included as a reference point for historical conditions.

Current Status (2013)

Secchi dashboard

Secchi Depth (Water Clarity), m

The current status for the Secchi depth indicator is Meeting Goal, meaning that the average Secchi depth in 2013 met the water quality goal.

Historical Status (1972, 2003-2013)

Secchi dashboard

 

Data sources: Freedman et al. (1979); Muskegon Lake Long-term Monitoring Program, Steinman et al. (2008) and A. Steinman/M. Ogdahl (unpublished data)

Dissolved Oxygen

Well-oxygenated water is critical to the healthy functioning of lake ecosystems, including sustaining populations of fish and bottom-dwelling organisms, such as insects, worms, mollusks, and snails. In overly-productive (i.e., eutrophic) lakes, dissolved oxygen (DO) can become depleted in the bottom waters, particularly during summer months. The DO dashboard was created by calculating the percentage of time during the annual monitoring period (May-October) that the daily average DO was less than 2 mg/L in the bottom waters at the Muskegon Lake Observatory buoy.

Current Status (2013)

DO dashboard

Low Dissolved Oxygen (<2 mg/L): Bottom Waters, % Monitoring Period (May-October)

The current status for the dissolved oxygen indicator is Meeting Goal, meaning that the percentage of days with low DO in 2013 met the water quality goal.

 

Historical Status (1972, 2003-2013)

DO dashboard

 

Data source: Muskegon Lake Observatory, B. Biddanda (unpublished data)


References

Freedman, P., R. Canale, and M. Auer. 1979. The impact of wastewater diversion spray irrigation on water quality in Muskegon County lakes. U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Washington, D.C. EPA 905/979006-A.

Steinman, A.D., M. Ogdahl, R. Rediske, C.R. Ruetz III, B.A. Biddanda, and L. Nemeth. 2008. Current status and trends in Muskegon Lake, Michigan. Journal of Great Lakes Research 34: 169-188.