LOWA begins work on multi-year lake water quality study

Mitch Prentice
Lake Sun Leader
Scientist Cody Luebbering shows Missouri Master       Naturalist volunteer Carol Bullard how to fill out a lake quality study chart.

Living at Lake of the Ozarks, it’s clear that there is one thing that is most important: the water. Over the next two years, the Lake of the Ozarks Watershed Alliance (LOWA) is working to make sure our most precious resource is in a proper state of quality. 

Donna Swall, Executive Director of the Lake of the Ozarks Watershed Alliance, says they are excited about the grant received in order to complete this project. The study will be completed in a range of 22 weeks in 2021, as well as a second 22-week study in 2022. 

Every Wednesday between the first of May and the end of September, volunteers will go out onto the lake to collect water samples. The areas of the lake that will be studied include waters near the Bagnell Dam, near the Gravois arm, near the 19-mile marker, near the 31-mile marker and near the 42-mile marker. 

The goal is to monitor the water quality of the lake and to showcase that it is, in fact, healthy. This is to counter the listing of the lake on the 303(d) EPA listing, which is short for a state’s list of impaired and threatened waters. Swall says that this study’s length and breadth should help to argue in favor of acceptable water quality. 

Another goal of LOWA through this period of time is to distribute grants to residents who are able to implement water quality changes onto their property. This includes keeping stone water out of the lake and installing guards against sediment runoff. Also, with the rise of COVID cleaning methods and the use of disposable wipes, LOWA hopes to showcase the negative effects of using flushable wipes when sewage is moved into a septic tank. 

Cody Luebbering, a scientist helping with the project, says that the study will look for levels of chlorophyll A. This can cause the lake water to turn a green color. Too much of this can lead to algal blooms, which is harmful to animals and humans who might consume the water. He says they want to make sure these algal blooms are avoided to keep the water clean and to limit the danger to fish. 

Scientist Cody Luebbering fills a jug with lake water to be used in the study.

With water from the lake reaching many areas of the state, Luebbering says that people should also consider the reach it has to agriculture and trees.

Luebbering says that, when water tests are completed, they are looking for potential sources of nutrients in the water and where they may be coming from. With independent studies in different lake arms, they will be able to assess the various areas of the lake more closely and tell the difference between them. 

Among the tests completed on a water sample gathering, there are a number of metrics compiled. These include dropping a gauge into the water until the base is no longer visible. This gives the test a visible depth before the water clarity is no longer visible.

A bottle of sample water from the Gravois arm is labeled.

The study still has a long way to go and many samples to collect over the next two years. In conclusion, LOWA hopes the hard work and volunteer hours put into the study will help defend the quality of water seen at the lake. 

“With thousands of collections, this can really start to make an impactful difference,” Luebbering said. “It’s a good education opportunity and, of course, a great opportunity to keep the lake healthy.”