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Water Quality

Water quality monitoring has been an integral part of the management plan for Paw Paw Lake. The discussion below provides background information on lake water quality and key sampling parameters.


Oligotrophic lakes are generally deep and clear with little aquatic plant growth. These lakes maintain sufficient dissolved oxygen in the cool, deep bottom waters during late summer to support cold-water fish such as trout and whitefish.

Eutrophic lakes have poor clarity and support abundant aquatic plant growth. In deep eutrophic lakes, the cool bottom waters usually contain little or no dissolved oxygen. Therefore, these lakes can only support warm and cool-water fish such as bass and pike.

Lakes that fall between the two extremes of oligotrophic and eutrophic are called mesotrophic lakes.

Key parameters used to classify lakes and to evaluate water quality include total phosphorus, chlorophyll-a, and Secchi transparency.

Phosphorus is the nutrient that most often stimulates excessive growth of aquatic plants and causes premature lake aging. By measuring phosphorus levels, it is possible to gauge the overall health of a lake. Lakes with a phosphorus concentration of 20 parts per billion or greater are eutrophic or nutrient enriched.

Chlorophyll-a is a pigment that imparts a green color to plants and algae. A rough estimate of the quantity of algae present in the water column can be made by measuring the amount of chlorophyll-a in the water column. A chlorophyll-a concentration greater than 6 parts per billion is characteristic of a eutrophic condition.

A Secchi disk is a round, black and white, 8-inch disk that is used to estimate water clarity. Eutrophic lakes have a Secchi transparency of less than 7.5 feet. Generally, it has been found that plants can grow to a depth of about twice the Secchi disk transparency.


To find out more about lake water quality, click here.

Paw Paw Lake has many eutrophic characteristics.  The lake has elevated bottom water phosphorus levels, abundant algae growth, and poor water clarity. During the summer months, the deep waters of the lake are devoid of dissolved oxygen.  Historical data indicate that Paw Paw Lake is prone to periodic blooms of blue-green algae which are potentially capable of producing algal toxins. However, sampling has found algal toxins in Paw Paw Lake to be well below levels of concern to human health. Monitoring of baseline water quality conditions in Paw Paw Lake is ongoing.


Click here to review recent water data collected from over the three deep basins in Paw Paw Lake. 


Deep lakes such as Paw Paw Lake undergo annual cycles of turnover and stratification.





The internal release of phosphorus from the deep water sediments in Paw Paw Lake may be a significant contributor to nuisance algae growth.

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