Chemical Assessment of the Lake James Watershed

Summary

An important element in assessing the overall health of a watershed is to analyze the chemical characteristics of the water. The chemical makeup of the water, and therefore its quality, affects aquatic life, human health, and the economy, among other things. Therefore, water quality and monitoring is a major focus of Lake James Environmental Association. This report summarizes our findings of the chemical characteristics in our watershed over the last 18 years of monitoring. In 2001, LJEA began monitoring at eight selected stream sites and six lake sites under the Environmental Quality Institute’s Volunteer Water Information Network (VWIN) program in order to assess the health of the lake and the water quality conditions in streams flowing into the lake. Much of the data in this report is the result of hundreds of assessments and thousands of volunteer hours at those key sites over the last 18 years. This data has been compiled in a report by the Environmental Quality Institute and can be accessed here. An Excel spreadsheet of 18 years of LJEA’s VWIN data is available here. LJEA’s data has also been supplemented with information made available through the Environmental Protection Agency’s Water Quality Portal.

Overall, the quality of the water in the Lake James Watershed is good. However, not all parts of the watershed are the same. Impacts of industry in the North Fork of the Catawba River and development on the western side of the lake do have impacts on water quality. Orthophosphate, Conductivity, and pH levels in the North Fork of the Catawba River and Chlorophyll a levels in the furthest western point of the lake that are higher than area norms (but within regulatory limits) stand out in this assessment. The significance of these measures to a healthy watershed is discussed in the body of this report. Based on the conclusions in the data in this report, the Lake James Environmental Association will remain diligent in proactively monitoring and reacting to the conditions of the water quality in the watershed.

The elements discussed in this report include:

  • Nutrients (Orthophosphate, Nitrate/Nitrite Nitrogen, Ammonia Nitrogen)
  • Chlorophyll a
  • Fecal Coliform
  • Conductivity
  • Acidity (pH)
  • Alkalinity

Turbidity and Total Suspended Solids are also important elements but are assessed in the Erosion and Sedimentation section of the State of the Watershed.