January 23, 2022

2020 West Point Lake Monitoring Results

Chattahoochee Riverkeeper’s mission is to protect and preserve the Chattahoochee River, its lakes and tributaries for the people, fish, and wildlife that depend upon it. (Photo: CRK)

(Franklin, GA) — Once again, water quality in West Point Lake met state standards according to results from Chattahoochee Riverkeeper’s  (CRK) annual water monitoring program.

Between April and October of each year, CRK devotes one full day out of each month to collect water samples from West  Point Lake.

The samples are analyzed in accordance with state approved protocols for chlorophyll-a – a measure of the  amount of algae in the water and an important indicator of the lake’s health.

The results of each month’s samples are averaged to develop a single value to compare to the state standard.

Nutrients concentrated in large amounts from raw or partially treated sewage, fertilizers, and stormwater runoff can result in excessive growth of algae that deplete oxygen in the water and cause odor and taste problems in treated drinking water.

In extreme cases, nutrient pollution and excessive algae can cause widespread fish kills.

Because of the harm that excessive algae can cause, the state has developed limits for the amount of algae in West Point Lake.

The annual average chlorophyll-a value should not exceed 24 μg/L at the LaGrange water intake.

In the 1980’s, chlorophyll-a seasonal averages were as high as 44 μg/L and causing dangerous and unsightly blooms of algae. In 2020, however, average chlorophyll-a level at the LaGrange water intake was 15.96 μg/L.

Yet, it’s worth noting that seasonal averages on West Point Lake have been steadily increasing since 2015.

In 2015, the seasonal average in the lake near West Point Dam was 5.47 μg/L; in 2020, the average was 12.25 μg/L.

And further upstream in the Chattahoochee watershed, Lake Lanier recently exceeded chlorophyll-a limits triggering a state-led cleanup plan.

It’s unclear at this point whether the increasing chlorophyll-a trend can be attributed to an increase of stormwater runoff,  point-source discharges or warmer temperatures.

As for past issues with sewage overflows, Henry Jacobs, CRK’s Middle Chattahoochee Director notes that, “Water  quality data collected weekly on the Chattahoochee River upstream of West Point Lake indicates an 80% reduction in  bacteria levels compared to results from two decades ago.”

Meantime, in Georgia, the six warmest years on record have all occurred in the past six years beginning in 2014 and urban growth and development throughout the region continues to contribute untold amounts of stormwater runoff into the river.

Thanks to the support of the City of Lagrange and individual donors, CRK has been able to conduct nutrient monitoring annually on West Point Lake since 2014.

For more information about Chattahoochee Riverkeeper, water monitoring and  how to support their efforts in 2021, please visit www.chattahoochee.org or contact Henry Jacobs at hjacobs@chattahoochee.org.

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