Nagawicka Lake is a 986-acre, usually mesotrophic, calcareous lake in southeastern Wisconsin. Because of concern over potential water-quality degradation of the lake associated with further development in its watershed, a study was conducted by the U.S. Geological Survey from 2002 to 2006 to describe the water quality and hydrology of the lake; quantify sources of phosphorus, including those associated with urban development; and determine the effects of past and future changes in phosphorus loading on the water quality of the lake. All major water and phosphorus sources were measured directly, and minor sources were estimated to construct detailed water and phosphorus budgets for the lake. The Bark River, near-lake surface inflow, precipitation, and ground water contributed 74, 8, 12, and 6 percent of the inflow, respectively. Water leaves the lake primarily through the Bark River outlet (88 percent) or by evaporation (11 percent). The water quality of Nagawicka Lake has improved dramatically since 1980 as a result of decreasing the historical loading of phosphorus to the lake. Total input of phosphorus to the lake was about 3,000 pounds in monitoring year (MY) 2003 and 6,700 pounds in MY 2004. The largest source of phosphorus entering the lake was the Bark River, which delivered about 56 percent of the total phosphorus input, compared with about 74 percent of the total water input. The next largest contributions were from the urbanized near-lake drainage area, which disproportionately accounted for 37 percent of the total phosphorus input but only about 5 percent of the total water input.
Simulations with water-quality models within the Wisconsin Lakes Modeling Suite (WiLMS) indicated the response of Nagawicka Lake to 10 phosphorus-loading scenarios. These scenarios included historical (1970s) and current (base) years (MY 2003-04) for which lake water quality and loading were known, six scenarios with percentage increases or decreases in phosphorus loading from controllable sources relative to the base years 2003-04, and two scenarios corresponding to specific management actions. Because of the lake's calcareous character, the average simulated summer concentration of total phosphorus for Nagawicka Lake was about 2 times that measured in the lake. The models likely over-predict because they do not account for coprecipitation of phosphorus and dissolved organic matter with calcite, negligible release of phosphorus from the deep sediments, and external phosphorus loading with abnormally high amounts of nonavailable phosphorus. After adjusting the simulated results for the overestimation of the models, a 50-percent reduction in phosphorus loading resulted in an average predicted phosphorus concentration of 0.008 milligrams per liter (mg/L) (a decrease of 46 percent). With a 50-percent increase in phosphorus loading, the average predicted concentration was 0.020 mg/L (an increase of 45 percent). With the changes in land use under the assumed future full development conditions, the average summer total phosphorus concentration should remain similar to that measured in MY 2003-04 (approximately 0.014 mg/L). However, if stormwater and nonpoint controls are added to achieve a 50-percent reduction in loading from the urbanized near-lake drainage area, the average summer total phosphorus concentration should decrease from the present conditions (MY 2003-04) to 0.011 mg/L. Slightly more than a 25-percent reduction in phosphorus loading from that measured in MY 2003-04 would be required for the lake to be classified as oligotrophic.
Additional publication details
USGS Numbered Series
Water Quality, Hydrology, and Response to Changes in Phosphorus Loading of Nagawicka Lake, a Calcareous Lake in Waukesha County, Wisconsin