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Inland Lakes Monitoring

Contact: Mike Walterhouse 517-284-5548

Michigan's unique geographical location provides its citizens with a wealth of freshwater resources including over 11,000 inland lakes that are valuable ecological resources and provide tremendous aesthetic and recreational value for the people of Michigan.

As more and more people use the lakes and surrounding watersheds, the potential for pollution problems and use impairment increases dramatically. Reliable information, including water quality data, levels of use, and use impairment, are essential for current and future management of these resources.

Historically, the Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) and the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) monitored water quality in Michigan's lakes and streams.  In 1973 the former DNR began systematically inventorying and sampling lakes to document trophic conditions as well as to obtain general baseline water quality information.  In 1979, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) funds were awarded to Michigan to expand the lakes monitoring effort and an ambient water quality monitoring program was initiated to sample and classify 729 public access lakes across the state.  In 1998, the citizen's of Michigan passed the Clean Michigan Initiative (CMI) and CMI funds were earmarked to redesign and implement the Lake Water Quality Assessment (LWQA) monitoring program in cooperation with the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) - Michigan District.  The LWQA monitoring program was initiated in 1998 as part of the DEQ's Strategic Environmental Quality Monitoring Program for Michigan Surface Waters.  From 2001 - 2010, 729 inland lakes greater than 25 acres in size were monitored for baseline water-quality conditions and trophic status.  In addition, Landsat satellite imagery  was used by USGS to predict the water clarity of approximately 4000 inland lakes greater than 20 acres in size.

Citizen-based volunteer monitoring has been a long-term element in Michigan's inland lakes monitoring history.  The Self-Help program was initiated in 1974.  This program was expanded in 1992 in cooperation with the Michigan Lake and Stream Association, Inc. and renamed the Cooperative Lakes Monitoring Program (CLMP).  The CLMP continues as a foundation program under the recently formed Michigan Clean Water Corps (MiCorps), Michigan's volunteer surface water monitoring network.

Collaborative monitoring efforts will continue to be important to Michigan's inland lakes monitoring strategy.  In 2007 and again in 2012, Michigan participated in the EPA sponsored survey of the nation's lakes.  The National Lakes Assessment Surveys are statistical surveys which included over 900 randomly selected lakes and reservoirs across the nation.  The Survey was designed to help the EPA provide regional and national estimates of the condition of lakes, as well as state-scale assessments for those states who participated in the Survey.  The DEQ coordinated the sampling of 50 Michigan lakes for the2007 Survey, and conducted sampling at 53 Michigan lakes in 2012.