Phosphorus load data were evaluated for Lake Okeechobee, Florida, for water years 1982 through 1991. Standard errors for load estimates were computed from available phosphorus concentration and daily discharge data. Components of error were associated with uncertainty in concentration and discharge data and were calculated for existing conditions and for 6 alternative load-monitoring scenarios for each of 48 distinct inflows. Benefit-cost ratios were computed for each alternative monitoring scenario at each site by dividing estimated reductions in load uncertainty by the 5-year average costs of each scenario in 1992 dollars. Absolute and marginal benefit-cost ratios were compared in an iterative optimization scheme to determine the most cost-effective combination of discharge and concentration monitoring scenarios for the lake. If the current (1992) discharge-monitoring network around the lake is maintained, the water-quality sampling at each inflow site twice each year is continued, and the nature of loading remains the same, the standard error of computed mean-annual load is estimated at about 98 metric tons per year compared to an absolute loading rate (inflows and outflows) of 530 metric tons per year. This produces a relative uncertainty of nearly 20 percent. The standard error in load can be reduced to about 20 metric tons per year (4 percent) by adopting an optimized set of monitoring alternatives at a cost of an additional $200,000 per year. The final optimized network prescribes changes to improve both concentration and discharge monitoring. These changes include the addition of intensive sampling with automatic samplers at 11 sites, the initiation of event-based sampling by observers at another 5 sites, the continuation of periodic sampling 12 times per year at 1 site, the installation of acoustic velocity meters to improve discharge gaging at 9 sites, and the improvement of a discharge rating at 1 site.