The Jefferson Project: Building The Future of Freshwater Protection

10 Years of Breakthroughs in Lasting Lake Protection from The Jefferson Project


Thanks to the unparalleled scientific and technological resources of The Jefferson Project at Lake George, our Lake is now “The World’s Smartest Lake,” with the aim of becoming the global model for freshwater ecosystem understanding and protection.

Established in 2013, The Jefferson Project is a historic collaboration between the protective actions and advocacy of the Lake George Association, the world-leading technology, science and data analysis of IBM Research, and the science and technological expertise of Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute.

While individuals, families and businesses are making the essential commitment to becoming Lake Protectors on their respective Lake George properties, The Jefferson Project is putting its world-class science and technology to work on a basin-wide level to guide our common goal of stopping water quality decline and achieving sustained protection of our Lake for generations to come.

The Jefferson Project name comes from Thomas Jefferson's timeless declaration of Lake George as: “… without comparison, the most beautiful water I ever saw.” His words provide both inspiration and destination for this unprecedented endeavor.

What Can the World’s Smartest Lake Do?

Equipped with one of the world’s most comprehensive scientific databases for a freshwater lake, The Jefferson Project is using this information as a springboard to understanding and solving the systemic problems now threatening to permanently degrade Lake George, including harmful algal blooms, invasive species and excessive road salt use.

The Project’s state-of-the-art systems approach to problem solving fuses monitoring, modeling, simulation, forecasting and experimentation to inform and compel smart decision-making to secure ecosystem resilience in the face of long-term pressures from climate change and intensifying human activity on the Lake and around the entire watershed.

The world’s most advanced system of integrated sensors, modeling and data analytics monitor conditions in real time. From the Lake itself to streams, soils and weather, more than 500 sensors form the Smart Sensor Network. This unparalleled array of intelligent technologies provides real-time feedback about changes in water conditions that may signal a new threat and will track progress on our initiatives to reduce wastewater and stormwater pollution as well as road salt use.

Integral to the power of the technologies is the enormous experimental initiative of the Project, which builds on decades of water chemistry surveys and new surveys of the Lake’s highly intricate food web. Jefferson Project experiments explore how human activities impact water quality, examining questions from molecules and genetics to the entire ecosystem. Sensor data are integrated with data from these surveys and experiments to inform sophisticated computer models for weather, runoff, water circulation and the food web.

Jefferson Project Staff Looking at Data Visualization

The Jefferson Project Visualization Lab.

Jefferson Project Vertical Profiler on Lake George collecting data

One of several vertical profilers, collecting data on the Lake.

Lake Mesocosms

Lake mesocosms allow for experiments with miniature Lake George simulations.

The Project’s Smart Sensor Network can collect more than nine terabytes of data per year that in turn generate 73 terabytes of data by computer models. All the data fuel the Project’s most powerful tool, the Scenario Engine, which creates the capacity to anticipate environmental changes decades into the future, like a new invasive species, increasingly severe and frequent storm events, loss of winter ice cover and much more. This revolutionary innovation establishes the ability to implement effective measures long before water quality declines, ushering in a new generation of preemptive protection that increases the Lake’s resilience to environmental stressors.

Big data analytics empower breakthrough research on globally significant issues impacting watershed ecology, including harmful algal blooms, invasive species, and the compounding effects of climate change. Creating The World’s Smartest Lake advances The Jefferson Project’s founding purpose: establishing a strategic collaboration that becomes the global model for sustained ecosystem understanding and protection.

View of a map from the Jefferson Project Data Dashboard, showing live data sensors

Live Data Dashboard

To help foster public understanding of its vital work — and inspire everyone who loves Lake George to become Lake Protectors —  live and historical data can be seen at JeffersonProject.Live.

Here you’ll find actual data streaming from the Smart Sensor Network, highly localized Lake George weather forecasting from IBM’s world-leading targeted forecasting technology, Deep ThunderTM — the only publicly available display of this forecasting advancement — and 37 years of key water-quality data relating to Lake chemistry, clarity and algal abundance, based on sampling at 14 deep-water sites around the Lake.

Visit the Data Dashboard