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Lakes and Special Studies

Lake Diagnostics/Watershed Modeling

Oklahoma Water Resources Board (OWRB) staff provide information and solutions for repairing Oklahoma lakes facing serious impairments due to “Cultural Eutrophication.” Through lake and watershed modeling, the source of a lake’s problem can be identified. Water sampling and analysis facilitate development of feasible mitigation options. Staff employ watershed models to provide lake inflow estimates of substances of concerns, while using lake models to generate lake response. Models are then used to predict the effects of water and land use management techniques. Reports of finalized projects can be found on the Technical Reports page.

What is Cultural Eutrophication?

Fertilizer, municipal waste, farm and feeding operation waste, and other human by-products are common pollutants to Oklahoma lakes. The overload of nutrients, primarily nitrogen and phosphorous, can lead to excessive algae growth and depleted oxygen levels, creating a bad environment for wildlife and recreation. Cultural eutrophication directly affects Oklahoma’s water supplies through algae-produced taste and odor compounds, increased treatment costs, and reduced supply through accelerated sedimentation.

Lake Restoration Activities

OWRB staff carefully evaluate the latest technology for application to Okahoma’s eutrophied lakes.

Sometimes restoration is a onetime effort of sediment removal to recover lost volume or reduce sediment borne nutrients. More innovative methods are also needed to control excessive alga growth. Concurrent with or following the implementation of watershed based measures to control point and non-point source pollution, most in-lake measures to control alga growth involve limiting the availability of key nutrients to the surface algae--chemical nutrients (such as nitrogen and phosphorus) or physical nutrients like sunlight.

Many Oklahoma reservoirs are missing crucial aquatic vegetation on their shorelines. Aquatic plants, which work as a natural buffer to the shoreline, offer many benefits. OWRB staff have worked with various federal, state, and local partners to introduce and/or facilitate the growth of aquatic plants along the shorelines of many Oklahoma lakes. The positive changes to the ecosystem of the shallow shoreline of the lake can be measurable and significant.

Another technique used by OWRB staff is oxygenation. Many Oklahoma lakes are oxygen deficient due to the rapid accumulation of organic matter on the lake bottom. Oxygen deficient sediment acts as a large compost pile, releasing excess nutrients back into the water column as oxygen is consumed. This dual threat limits oxygen to organisms like fish and furnishes nutrients.

Other types of restoration can be accomplished through shoreline erosion control projects and control of invasive aquatic nuisance species. Invasive aquatic nuisance species put littoral wetlands at risk by out-competing native species. This leaves holes in the natural ecosystem. Often these species, if not controlled, can become so expansive that they affect lake recreation and water users.

Bathymetric Mapping

The OWRB’s bathymetric mapping program utilizes GIS and related technology to provide accurate determinations of the current storage capacities in the state’s reservoirs. Geographic Positioning System (GPS) and acoustic depth sounding instruments are incorporated into hydrographic survey vessels. Contour maps are then derived from the collected data points and digital lake bottom surface models.

Obtaining accurate storage volumes for lakes is an integral tool for water resources management. The valuable information that a bathymetric survey produces can be used by State and Federal Agencies for determining TMDLs, dam breach analysis, and watershed monitoring and management; municipalities to help determine the amount of water a lake can yield in the driest of times (reliable yield); fisheries managers to help determine fish stocking quotas, provide an estimate of lake volume for chemical rehabilitation projects and vegetation control, and calculate potential yield of fish; and anglers to find sunken points, drop-offs, mud flats, and other features.

Bathymetric maps are currently available for the following Oklahoma lakes:

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Page last updated: July 24, 2014

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