About the Adirondack Lake Assessment Program
The Adirondack Lake Assessment Program (ALAP) is a “citizen science” water monitoring project, the management done by Protect the Adirondacks, the sampling by volunteers,and the analyzing, reports and interpretation by the Adirondack Watershed Institute at Paul Smith’s College.
2017 marks the 20th year of the successful partnership between Paul Smith’s College and Protect the Adirondacks for the Adirondack Lake Assessment Program. Established to help develop a comprehensive and up-to-date database of water quality of Adirondack lakes and ponds, ALAP’s success is measured by that of its dedicated volunteers.
Established in 1998, ALAP is one of the largest, most professional, volunteer driven water quality monitoring programs in the Adirondack Park beginning with a few water bodies and adding a few every year since. Until there are five years of data, trends cannot be dependably seen, so it is important to have long-term monitoring in each lake or pond.
In 2017, over 75 lakes and ponds will be studied in ALAP. There are said to be 3,000 lakes and ponds in the Park. Only around 190 are being tested, many of them mostly for acidity. But all the water bodies that have development on them or are near roads should be studied if possible.
Watch a new ALAP training video here produced by the Adirondack Watershed Institute.
How are samples taken?
ALAP volunteers sample their lakes for three month, and five month periods; whichever works best for each individual’s schedule. Each month participants measure the transparency of their lake with a secchi disk, collect a bottle of water to be analyzed for various chemical components, and filter a small sample of water for chlorophyll. The filter and water sample are kept frozen until they are transported to the laboratory at Paul Smith’s College. Training for water quality measurement and sample collection is provided by PROTECT and AWI to volunteers prior to the start of their monitoring program. See Simplified Instructions for ALAP Water Sampling.
What does ALAP Test for?
ALAP data is not just about acidity. Possibly more important for the Park’s health as a whole is the testing for phosphorus, because unnatural levels of that nutrient cause more algae growth, which usually indicates watershed development is causing too much phosphorus to get into the water body. (Hard surfaces and lack of natural forest cause more storm water runoff, which carries phosphorus and other nutrients and toxins from lawns and cars. Failing or faulty septic systems from old developed areas are an especially serious problem.) Aquatic plants including invasives like Eurasian milfoil will be fertilized and grow to unnatural levels also, causing problems for recreation. No one wants increasing amounts of either algae or aquatic plants, so monitoring should be a “non-political” activity if the effects of phosphorus are widely known.
Rising salt levels are also something to cause concern.for most people. Though at low levels salt does not cause a problem except possibly to aquatic micro-life, unless the cause for the trend is discovered and stopped, there can eventually be human and animal health and water-turnover problems. Fish can be severely impacted. AWI recently did a study of salt levels in the Adirondacks using ALAP data as well as their own and other sources, pointing out the places that are already showing impacts. As road salt is the main source, once the trend is confirmed, local, county and state highway departments can be worked with to lower salt use. The report outlines what AWI recommends for management of the de-icing of roads in the Adirondacks.
Also analyzed by AWI staff are alkalinity, conductivity, color, nitrate, and total phosphorus. Samples taken during a visit by AWI staff are also tested for calcium and aluminum concentrations. They are not able to do mercury at this time.
What does monitoring cost?
In 2017, 3-months of sampling (June thru August) at one station in a lake costs $200 and 5-months of sampling (May thru September) costs $275. Testing kits cost $350, but only need to be purchased once or can be shared with another monitor. Kits consist of a Secchi disk to measure water transparency, an integrated sampler and bottles for collecting samples for phosphorus, and filtering apparatus and bottles for chlorophyll-a samples. Annual sample bottles and filters are distributed by Protect the Adirondacks! every spring.
This is a very inexpensive, though professional, monitoring system because volunteers do the sampling all over the Park, saving the scientists a tremendous amount of time and vehicle costs. AWI compiles an annual report each winter summarizing water quality trends in each lake. When a lake’s annual report indicates a troublesome trend, a scientist from AWI will visit and speak with lake associations and/or monitors to consider what should be done to reverse the trend.
How do we sign up?
The best way to sign up is by using the online registration page before the beginning of the testing season. Or, you can download a copy of the ALAP 2017 Registration Form and mail it to ALAP, Protect the Adirondacks, P.O. Box 769, Lake George NY 12845 or to firstname.lastname@example.org. We will schedule a training, at your lake if it is a new one, and arrange for the delivery of a testing kit and sample bottles.
See more information on the Participant’s Resources page. For more information you can also call the main office at 518-685-3088.