Oklahoma Water Resources Board the Water Agency

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Lake Restoration

OWRB staff provide information and solutions for repairing Oklahoma lakes facing serious impairments due to Cultural Eutrophication, which occurs when Fertilizer, municipal waste, farm and feeding operation waste, and other human by-products cause an overload of nutrients, primarily nitrogen and phosphorous. This leads 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.

OWRB staff are frequently involved in sediment removal, oxygenation, shoreline revegetation, and erosion control projects after carefully evaluating the latest technology for application to eutrophied lakes.

Restoration can be a one-time effort of sediment removal to recover lost volume or reduce sediment borne nutrients. More innovative methods may be 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.

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.

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.

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.

Through lake and watershed modeling, the source of a lake’s problem can often be identified. By inputting inflow estimates of substances of concern, staff can determine a lake's 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.

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Last updated: December 11, 2020

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