Lake group webinar focuses on Seneca Lake
SENECA LAKE--The Seneca Lake Pure Waters Association held their first in a series of webinars Thursday, Aug. 27 discussing the health and history of Seneca Lake. With over 100 registrants, the webinar, titled A History and Status of Seneca Lake Water Quality, was hosted by Hobart and William Smith Colleges' Professor John Halfman.
"Seneca Lake has 50 percent of all water in the Finger Lakes and the one we should work hardest not to screw up so we have it for future generations," Halfman said.
Halfman stated surface temperatures taken over the last 25 years have shown the general trend tends to be warmer water, which Halfman said was probably due to global climate change.
"The last five years have been some of the warmest years on record... now what's ironic is that we haven't had any (bacterial blooms) yet... There is a caveat to this, the temperature peaks when it starts to get into fall... the blooms aren't during the peak of temperature but when it starts to cool down. It indicates a delay mechanism," Halfman said.
Halfman mentioned it's only a guess but could be a logical explanation as to why blooms don't occur during the time when surface water is warmest.
Confirming that observation, the first harmful algal bloom on Seneca Lake was later confirmed last week for the 2020 season in the Southeastern part of the lake, between Burdett and Hector as air temperatures began to cool off.
Discussing other indicators of water health, Halfman said that while nitrates have been stable, phosphorus testing of the lake has shown a steady increase marked by the occasional sudden spike.
"For most of the Finger Lakes phosphorus is limited so anything you can do to limit that entering into the basin is important," Halfman said.
The key to protecting the lake is not only preventing the entry of unwanted materials, but also understanding what goes into maintaining a healthy ecosystem for the lake. Along with being important to things like drinking water and quality of life, Halfman repeatedly said the local tourism economy is dependent upon Seneca Lake remaining healthy.
"We need to figure out ways to improve the water quality of Seneca and Keuka Lakes... we need to start now as soon as we can," Halfman said.
Devising and executing plans to constantly monitor levels of nutrients in the lake to see what stimulus, whether chemical, temperature, some combination of the two or otherwise is responsible for specific types of algae blooms is paramount.
"So trying to predict (seasons and intensity) is like playing Russian Roulette, but I am working on it, and there is progress," Halfman said. "For instance, residents aren't able to buy fertilizer with phosphorus because we are part of the Finger Lakes Watershed."
Along with discussing the current status of Seneca Lake, Halfman also went into the history of the lake as well. Discussing the Finger Lakes were created by glacier activity during the last ice age, Halfman said that mounds of debris mark where the ice sheet was at the southern end of the Finger Lakes.
"Wherever the glacier went it changed the characteristic of the landscape," Halfman said.
During the question and answer section at the end of the webinar, Halfman said he thinks efforts regarding Seneca Lake are much greater than they had been in the past.