Calling all lake lovers: Monitoring program in need of volunteers

Published 7:07 pm Monday, July 22, 2019


FRANKFORT — Are you an avid fisherman? A lake resident? A weekender who loves being on the water? You could be part of a growing number of citizens dedicated to improving the Commonwealth’s 440,000 acres of lake waters through the Volunteer Lake Monitoring Program.

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Offered through a partnership between the Kentucky Energy and Environment Cabinet and the Watershed Watch in Kentucky, this program gives residents the opportunity to join other citizen scientists across the state who have made a commitment to monitor and report the condition of their chosen lake on a regular basis, now through October.

In 2007, Herrington Lake was the site for the scientific monitoring program, developed by Watershed Watch and the Kentucky Division of Water, that tested how local volunteers could help assess lake water quality.

The program was the first in the state to use “citizen scientists to monitor a lake,” said Rob Blair, who wrote the standard operating procedure for the program.

A similar program using volunteers to chemically monitor creeks and streams has been in existence since 1997.

Blair said Herrington Lake was chosen for the pilot program partially because the Kentucky River Basin Coordinator happens to live on Herrington Lake and she agreed to help start the new program. Plus, she described the base of concerned citizens already working with the Herrington Lake Conservation League, “so we had a ready made group of volunteers,” who are interested in the “lake health,” Blair said.

About 11 resident volunteers monitored Herrington Lake two years ago by observing water clarity; presence of algae; currents; waves; and even trash.

The sites include Herrington Hills Drive and pavilion; Chenault Bridge; Cane Run; Dix Dam; Chimney Rock; Bryant’s Camp, Paradise Camp; and Chimney Rock areas.

Eric Russell, who lives near Kentucky Lake in Marshall County, said the time required to be involved in the lake monitoring program is minimal compared to the sense of contribution he feels. “I went to MSU and studied Biology and GIS years ago, but ended up following a different career path,” Russell said. “I live near the lake and want to be a part of helping to monitor our natural resources.”

The program helps citizen scientists expand water resource monitoring, address data gaps and improve the characterization of water quality in the lakes of Kentucky. Collection, observation and reporting procedures are designed to be inexpensive, quick and easy to perform, and provide hands-on experience for volunteers. On-site training, materials and monitoring equipment are provided free of charge.

Volunteers conduct Secchi Depth monitoring, using a circular disk to measure water transparency as it relates to sunlight penetration. These measurements can provide valuable information for detecting trends in lake water quality. Volunteers also document the lake condition, visual appearance, and current weather, and take photographs whenever possible.

John Webb, manager of the watershed management branch, created the program and has been active for years with volunteers. “The program allows the division to involve the public in helping achieve our mission of protecting the water resources of the commonwealth,” he said. “We are able to gain greater insights into conditions across the state, and can work collectively with local communities to respond to and manage observed impacts.”

Gary Rocca, of Cadiz, is a volunteer on Lake Barkley. “Water quality is near and dear to me, and it’s important to test and be in front of the curve to identify issues and create a baseline for long-term activity,” he said. “Clean water is important and we cannot lose control.”

If you are interested in becoming involved in the Lakes Monitoring Program, visit, and email or call 502-782-6893.