10 Things You Can Do to Know Your Lake Better

It is important that we step back and consider the group of individuals that are on the fence when it comes to lakes.  There is obviously a dedicated group of individuals that help care for and are directly connected to the management of a water body, but many individuals who are lake or stream side property holders or enthusiasts either feel disengaged or not intelligent enough to become actively engaged with day to day activities.  At the Illinois Lakes Management Association (ILMA), our primary sponsor of the IllinoisLakes Blog we feel “the more the merrier”.

In the context of the title “your lake” it may reference a body of water you currently live on, frequent, or may mean several lakes.  Getting engaged IS important as it helps set directives for your organization and may help them better allocate future funding.  In the case of public or quasi-public lakes it may have the ability to influence outside funding sources.  Perhaps the list below can be used to help assist in influencing involvement as well or better manage overall.  Without further ado:

  1. Seek out your lake management association if you have one 🙂 – to some this is great place to start.  Some groups operate better than others, but observing the initial input and back and forth conversation will allow you to better understand what issues are involved in the overall management of the lake and where your piece of the pie might fit in.
  2. Enjoy some simple ecology.  The water is the source of all life and habitat to so many different species from plants to insects, amphibians, fish, and invertebrates.  So many of these things rely on each other to survive, it will make you think twice about reducing shoreline habitat to bulkheads and seawalls which support places for various young fish and other insects to forage.
  3. Find the lake gage.  Hydrology impacts how the lake or water body elevations fluctuate from time to time.  Seeing how the water responds to certain amounts of rainfall is fun.  Precipitation is needed to move stagnant water around from time to time (affecting residence time), so it is an important element in the success of the lake or waterbody.
  4. Get to know the “ins and outs” of the system, literally.  People tend to see these areas as trouble areas but they are extremely useful indicators for monitoring conditions.  If the water coming into the lake is “dirtier” than the water leaving your lake then your lake is soaking up the difference.  If it’s the other way around than you may have an internal cycling problem.  Simple observations can mean a lot.  How to do this with minimal cost may be a future topic of discussion.
  5. Search for documentation regarding your lake.  What seems somewhat tedious in the world of lake management is the oblivious nature at which people base their decisions.  The year is 2017 and there is much more literature out there about lakes and most likely something about your lake!  The Illinois Environmental Protection Agency (IEPA) has been under mandate by the Clean Water Act (CWA) to study the watersheds draining to the majority of our streams and lakes and as such has already started a dialogue.  Those of you living in Lake County are likely aware of the fantastic background work completed by the Health Department’s Lake Management Unit.  There are other sources out there in the form of watershed plans as well.  These may all identify issues that can further help you understand your lake.
  6. Have a cold one.  So many of us ignore the lake once the ice cap goes on but there are observations to be made during the winter and colder months as well.  Some trouble areas can be more visible once the vegetation dies back.  This is a great time to do some ground truthing.
  7. Eye in the sky.  If you’ve never taken a detailed look at the area around your lake via aerial photography it’s worth a look.  Looking at various land use and road patterns may lead you to questions as to “how much chloride is coming of that road?”  “Is that a problem?”
  8. Where do those pipes come from?  Many people see water draining from phantom pipes into the lake or stream and think nothing of it.  These pipes serve a purpose and that is to drain water away from somewhere else and keep people reasonably safe from flooding.  The unintended consequence however is that materials other than water comes along for the ride.
  9. Learn the difference between algae and plants.  Reason:  While some animals do consume algae, having it in your lake is usually an indicator of something that is above it natural range.  A little algae is certainly normal but with today’s concerns over potentially harmful algae strains it is time to start reconsidering why the algae may be there in the first place.
  10. Look at the plants in your lake.  Get to know them.  The terms native and invasive are important to know.  If your lake is encumbered by large amounts of invasive species it can be tough for the native species to compete.  The invasive plants have limited end users and by displacing native species they complicate the food web for fish, amphibians, and invertebrates.

~p0sted by Admin