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Water Quality

Published Jan. 19, 2024

Water Quality

Our Water Quality Teams are responsible for monitoring and evaluating water quality our reservoirs and several river miles of the Ohio River that are within the Great Lake and Ohio River

 Division civil works boundaries. This effort includes measurement of selected physical, chemical, and biological parameters at river and lake project stations, including biological assessments and harmful algal bloom (HAB) response.

Data collected via the Water Quality Program is assessed annually.  Data is compared to water quality criteria and standards established by state agencies.  If any exceedances of established water quality criteria occur, the Water Quality Team reports this to the appropriate state regulatory agency.

The Water Resources Development Act (WRDA 2007, Section 2017) requires the US Army Corps of Engineers to make water quality data available to the public.  The Water Quality Team has several reports available.  If you are interested in specific data, please don't hesitate to contact us.

You can request water quality data by contacting the Water Quality Team from the appropriate district and specifying what lake(s), what year(s), and what type of data in which you are interested. 

CONTACT US!

Chicago District   |   Huntington District   |   Louisville District   |   Nashville District     Pittsburgh District

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WE CANNOT ANSWER QUESTIONS REGARDING WATER QUALITY PERMITS OR PERMITTING ACTIONS! FOR PERMIT-RELATED QUESTIONS, PLEASE CONTACT the appropriate Regulatory Division Office. (link “regulatory” to the regulatory page

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Barren River. US Army Corps of Engineers photo by Michael Lapina.
Barren River
Barren River. US Army Corps of Engineers photo by Michael Lapina.
Photo By: Michael Lapina
VIRIN: 110213-A-MX460-012
Sutton Lake
Sutton Lake
Sutton Lake
Photo By: Huntington District
VIRIN: 240117-A-A1409-001

Links Of Interest:

 

 

 

The Louisville District monitors and responds to HABs in coordination with state agencies. To report HABs, or for current HAB advisories and other HAB information, please see the applicable state websites and contact information listed below.

To report potential HAB-related illnesses, please contact the Poison Control Center at: 1-800-222-1222

Biological assessments are commonly used by scientists not only to understand water quality but also to evaluate the condition of aquatic ecosystems. The Louisville District Water Quality Team has utilized the following biological assessments for understanding the water quality of reservoirs and their associated tributaries and tailwaters: benthic macroinvertebrates, fish, phytoplankton, and zooplankton

Benthic Macroinvertebrates

Benthic macroinvertebrates (i.e., bottom-dwelling animals that lack a backbone and are large enough to be visible with the naked eye) are commonly used as indicators of water quality conditions, as they are sensitive to pollution and spend most (if not all) of their time in water. The Louisville District Water Quality Team utilizes assessments of benthic macroinvertebrate communities to better understand the water quality conditions of tributaries flowing into reservoirs as well as conditions flowing out of reservoirs via tailwaters. The methods of these studies are consistent with the appropriate state water quality authorities for Kentucky, Indiana, and Ohio, depending on the jurisdiction of a reservoir.

Fish

Fish communities are commonly used as indicators of water quality conditions, as they are sensitive to pollution and can be impacted by changes in water quality. The Louisville District Water Quality Team utilizes assessments of fish communities to better understand the water quality conditions of tributaries flowing into reservoirs as well as conditions flowing out of reservoirs via tailwaters. The methods of these studies are consistent with the appropriate state water quality authorities for Kentucky, Indiana, and Ohio, depending on the jurisdiction of a reservoir.

Phytoplankton

Phytoplankton are free-floating aquatic microorganisms that are photosynthetic (convert light energy into chemical energy for food), such as algae and cyanobacteria (blue-green algae). Because phytoplankton compose much of the bottom of the food chain, aquatic ecosystems depend heavily on phytoplankton. Also, phytoplankton are sensitive to water quality conditions and make excellent indicators of water quality. Because of these reasons, the Louisville District Water Quality Team monitors phytoplankton communities at all Louisville District reservoirs annually. 

Zooplankton

Zooplankton are free-floating aquatic microorganisms that are consumers (consume other organisms for food), such as crustaceans and aquatic mites. Zooplankton serve as a critical link in the food chain by supporting organisms that then support larger organisms, such as fish. Also, zooplankton are sensitive to water quality conditions and make excellent indicators of water quality

Hydrilla

Hydrilla is a non-native invasive aquatic plant that grows in dense branching colonies which can grow in water up to 20 feet deep and form thick mats across the water’s surface.

Hydrilla is well suited to live in a variety of freshwater habitats including, lakes, ditches, rivers and marshes. The plant is tolerant of nutrient levels and its ability to grow in low-light conditions means it can grow at deeper depths and begin photosynthesizing earlier in the day than many other aquatic plants. Hydrilla can reproduce in four different ways including fragmentation, tubers, turions, and seed. With these adaptations in addition to the large, thick mats and rapid growth rate, Hydrilla is able to out compete most native vegetation that it encounters.

Hydrilla is listed as a Federal Noxious Weed, and it is therefore illegal to import or sell the plant in the United States as millions of dollars are spent annually in the U.S. to control the growth and spread of the plant in our nation’s waterways.

Why is Hydrilla problematic in our lakes?

Aside from the adaptations that allow Hydrilla to out-compete native aquatic vegetation, creating a monoculture that decreases biodiversity, the rapid growth rate and thick mats can increase water pH and temperature and cause wide fluctuations in dissolved oxygen. The growth rate and density of Hydrilla can also have significant impacts on water intake structures by clogging pipes and can decrease recreational opportunities as entire coves can become inaccessible for boating and swimming.

How to prevent the spread of Hydrilla

  • Remove all plant fragments from your boat, propeller, and boat trailer. The transportation of plant material on boats, trailers, and in livewells is the main introduction route to new waterways. You should always thoroughly clean your boat before and after visiting different lakes.
  • Rinse any mud and/or debris from equipment and wading gear and drain any water from boats before leaving a launch area.
  • Do NOT release aquarium or water garden plants into the wild, rather seal them in a plastic bag and dispose in the trash.
  • Consider using native plants from your state in aquariums and water gardens.
  • If you detect this plant in a waterway contact the appropriate state authority. Links for each of the states within the Louisville District’s area of responsibility are included on this page.