Lake George's AA-Special Classification - What Does That Mean?

Lake George Has a Long Water Retention Time

Measuring Water Quality - Indicators

Top Ten Causes of Water Quality Impairment in New York State

Lake George Water Quality

Lake George: AA-Special, but also an impaired waterbody.
Lake George is classified AA-Special by New York State. It is drinking water. Despite this very high classification for the Lake's water quality, Lake George is also on New York's 303(d) list, a list of impaired waterbodies. Lake George and a number of its tributaries are listed as impaired from silt and sediment caused by stormwater runoff and erosion. (See a chart showing the top ten causes of water quality impairment in New York State. View the final 303(d) List - pdf, adopted June 2010).

When managing Lake George's water quality, there are several factors to consider:
- Lake George is a drainage lake, with a very long water retention time.
- We also need to understand the Lake's most important water quality indicators - clarity, phosphorus, and chlorophyll a.

Image courtesy of: UW Extension and Wisconsin DNR

Watersheds and Water Quality
An old adage says that a large, deep basin of water like Lake George is so deep, any pollution entering the Lake will just be diluted. While it's true that the Lake's depth does allow for a certain amount of dilution, as more and more pollutants enter the Lake, the Lake’s natural capacity to clean itself can’t keep up. Human activities in the watershed are affecting the lake's water quality.

The mountains surrounding the Lake create a small watershed with steep slopes. This small, forested watershed doesn’t produce much pollution; it keeps Lake George’s water clean and clear.

Compare our watershed with one like Lake Champlain. This much larger watershed has areas of flat land that allow for land uses such as urbanization and agriculture. Due to its size and land uses, pollution from the Lake Champlain watershed has had a much greater impact on the water quality of the lake. Lake George has had watershed size and land use on its side, until now. As trees and vegetation are cleared for development, the soil, with nothing to hold it in place, quickly erodes, right down the very same steep slopes that have been protecting the Lake for so long. Add changing land use to our Lake's long water retention time, and a decline in water quality is a real concern.


Image courtesy of: UW Extension and Wisconsin DNR

As development pressures continue to increase, the health of the lake will continue to decline unless we all do our part. We all live here because we love the Lake: the beauty, the tranquility, and the memories it holds for us. But the Lake can’t protect itself. It relies on those that love it to protect it as well. And here is where the lake-friendly lifestyle begins.

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