Survey To Help Determine Condition Of Nation's Lakes

On Dec. 6, EPA announced it will embark on a three-year study to determine the state of America's lakes. The "Survey of the Nation's Lakes" is the first-ever attempt to assess real-world conditions by studying 909 lakes, ponds and reservoirs that have profiles representative of all lakes in the United States.

The survey, a joint effort among EPA, the states and some tribes, will:

  • determine the ecology of the lakes and the factors that influence their condition.
  • stimulate and implement ideas within all levels of government -- federal, state, regional and local.
  • build state and tribal capacity for monitoring and analyzing lake water quality data.
  • collect a set of lake data for better management of lakes.
  • develop baseline information to evaluate progress.

"America's lakes shape the landscape and are at the heart of our natural heritage, health and beauty," said EPA Assistant Administrator for Water Benjamin H. Grumbles. "EPA's national state-of-the-lakes study will measure lake health, map priorities and motivate grass-roots stewardship."

Survey samples will be taken from natural and human-made freshwater lakes, ponds and reservoirs next summer. Researchers will look at water chemical quality, turbidity, color, conditions of shoreline habitat and pathogen indicators. Other conditions also will be measured. Researchers will use the same sampling techniques among all lakes to provide uniform results and permit comparisons across the country.

The last time EPA catalogued the status of lakes was from 1972 to 1976, when 815 lakes were evaluated nationwide. The new study will resample 113 lakes from the earlier survey for comparison.

The study is part of a larger EPA effort to assess coastal waters, rivers and wetlands. A similar survey, for wadeable streams, was completed earlier this year (see the article "First-Ever Assessment of U.S. 'Wadeable' Streams Finds Almost Half In Poor Condition" in the May 2006 archives at All of the surveys will be repeated to analyze the success of efforts to manage and improve overall water quality. The report on the lakes survey will be released in 2009.

More information about the Survey of the Nation's Lakes can be found at