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Water quality, hydrology, and phosphorus loading to Little St. Germain Lake, Wisconsin, with special emphasis on the effects of winter aeration and ground-water inputs

Scientific Investigations Report 2005-5071

In cooperation with the Little St. Germain Lake District
By:
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Abstract

Little St. Germain Lake is a 978-acre, multibasin lake in Vilas County, Wisconsin. In the interest of protecting and improving the water quality of the lake, the Little St. Germain Lake District initiated several cooperative studies with the U.S. Geological Survey between 1991 and 2004 to (1) document the water quality and the extent of winter anoxia in the lake, (2) evaluate the success of aerators at eliminating winter anoxia, (3) develop water and nutrient budgets for the lake, and (4) assess how the water quality of the lake should respond to changes in phosphorus loading. This report presents the results of these cooperative studies with special emphasis on the water quality in the lake since 2000, including the effects of winter aeration and the importance of ground-water contributions of phosphorus to the productivity of the lake.

Measurements collected during these studies indicate that the water quality in Little St. Germain Lake was consistently different among basins. The West Bay consistently had the best water quality, the South Bay had intermediate water quality, and the East and Upper East Bays consistently had the worst water quality. The water quality in each of the basins was relatively stable from 1991 to 2000; however, since 2001, the West Bay has changed from oligotrophic to mesotrophic, the South Bay has changed from mesotrophic to eutrophic, and the East and Upper East Bays have changed from eutrophic to eutrophic/hypereutrophic.

Winter anoxia frequently occurred throughout most of the lake, except in the West Bay and just below the ice in the East Bay. To eliminate winter anoxia, coarse-bubble line aerators were installed and operated in the Upper East, East, and South Bays. The aerators in the Upper East and South Bays were very successful at eliminating winter anoxia; however, the aerator in the East Bay had little impact on the dissolved oxygen concentrations throughout its basin.

Detailed water and phosphorus budgets computed for the lake indicated that inflow from Muskellunge Creek was the major source of phosphorus to the lake and that ground water was the secondary source. Results from a detailed ground-water-flow model indicated that ground water flows into the lake from all sides, except the south sides of the West and Second South Bays. Most of the phosphorus appears to come from natural sources, such as ground water and surface water flowing through relatively undeveloped areas surrounding Little St. Germain Lake and Muskellunge Lake.

Several empirical water-quality models were used to simulate how the East and Upper East Bays of the lake should respond to reductions in phosphorus loading from Muskellunge Creek. Simulation results indicated that reductions in tributary loading could improve the water quality of the East and Upper East Bays. Improving the water quality of these bays would also improve the water quality of the South and Second South Bays because of the flow of water through the lake. However, even with phosphorus loading from Muskellunge Creek completely eliminated, most of the lake would remain borderline mesotrophic/eutrophic because of the contributions of phosphorus from ground water.

Study Area

Additional publication details

Publication type:
Report
Publication Subtype:
USGS Numbered Series
Title:
Water quality, hydrology, and phosphorus loading to Little St. Germain Lake, Wisconsin, with special emphasis on the effects of winter aeration and ground-water inputs
Series title:
Scientific Investigations Report
Series number:
2005-5071
Year Published:
2005
Language:
English
Publisher:
U.S. Geological Survey
Contributing office(s):
Wisconsin Water Science Center
Description:
viii, 36 p.
Time Range Start:
1991-04-01
Time Range End:
2004-03-31
Country:
United States
State:
Wisconsin
County:
Vilas County
Other Geospatial:
Littel St. Germain Lake
Scale:
100000
Online Only (Y/N):
N
Additional Online Files (Y/N):
Y