Northeastern Section–41st Annual Meeting (20–22 March 2006)

Paper No. 9
Presentation Time: 7:00 PM-9:30 PM


BUSH, Kathleen F., Department of Biology & Environmental Studies Program, Hobart & William Smith Colleges, Geneva, NY 14456 and HALFMAN, John D., Department of Geoscience & Environmental Studies Program, Hobart & William Smith Colleges, Geneva, NY 14456,

The Finger Lakes are an important natural and economic resource as they provide drinking water for the cities of Rochester and Syracuse, and other local residents. The lakes also support a rapidly increasing tourist and winery industry. These lakes are an ideal natural laboratory for water quality studies because each watershed has different land use, bedrock, and watershed protection legislation. This study investigated a first-order correlation between water quality indicators and watershed legislation.

Seven Finger Lakes (Honeoye, Canandaigua, Keuka, Seneca, Cayuga, Owasco and Skaneateles), selected for their range of trophic status, degree of watershed protection, and logistical concerns, were sampled for total coliform and Escherichia coli (E. coli) bacteria, nutrient concentrations (dissolved phosphate, nitrate and silica) and water clarity (chlorophyll-a, total suspended solid concentrations and secchi disk depths) following standard limnological procedures. Surface and bottom water samples were collected and analyzed at two deep water sites in each lake on a monthly basis from June through October, 2005, in all but Seneca Lake which was seasonally sampled from 2003 through 2005 at four lake sites and up to sixteen streams in the watershed on a weekly basis.

Total coliform and E. coli data lack significant trends between lakes, reveal higher concentrations in stream than lake samples, and the data are typically within the EPA's maximum contaminant levels (MCL's) for Class AA drinking water. Two streams, Wilson Creek and Hector Falls, consistently had higher bacterial counts. Nutrient and water clarity average data reveal the following ranking, from more to less oligotrophic/transparent: Skaneateles, Keuka, Cayuga, Canandaigua, Seneca, Honeoye and Owasco Lakes. This ranking strongly correlates to a first-order assessment of watershed protection for each lake. Before a cause and effect relationship is proposed, we must analyze the watershed protection legislation more closely and investigate water quality trends over time to eliminate other potential factors including pre-existing water quality status before the implementation of the legislation or the limnological impact of recently invading zebra and quagga mussels.