Members of the Pittsburgh District water quality team and Youghiogheny River Lake collected samples from Youghiogheny River Lake and its tributaries, Sept. 23 - 24.
The effort is part of the district’s multi-tiered water quality monitoring program that supports Water Management Branch’s decisions for the operation of the district’s system of multi-purpose reservoirs. Data collected is utilized to identify and understand the impacts of reservoir operations; identify opportunities to enhance operational benefits; document trends in water quality conditions; ensure compliance with federal and state laws and regulations; inform reservoir water control manuals updates; and ensure long term, sustainable management of aquatic resources.
The district’s multi-tiered water quality program includes coordination of the following components:
1) Intensive monthly limnological surveys of at least one district reservoir and its watershed each year from spring through early winter by the water quality team, with support from project staff. Intensive surveys are conducted at each district reservoir once every 10 years.
2) At least one annual, worst-case summer season intensive limnological surveys conducted at each district reservoir and its watershed by the water quality team, with support from project staff.
3) Year-round, continuous collection of routine, semi-monthly, water quality samples at the outflows and some inflows of all district reservoirs by project staff.
4) Continuous, real-time, water quality monitoring, at reservoir operational control points located throughout the district, including in-lake water temperature and water quality at 12 reservoirs.
This year, Youghiogheny Lake was selected for monthly water quality surveys, which began in May and will continue until October or November, depending on the weather. Water samples are collected throughout the lake along vertical profiles, the Youghiogheny River inflow to the lake, larger lake tributaries, and the Casselman and Youghiogheny Rivers downstream of the lake (see map). Samples are being analyzed for many physical, biological, and chemical water quality parameters, such as pH, acidity, alkalinity, metals, nutrients, solids, salts, and algae. While results of sample analyses are pending, field data indicates that Youghiogheny Lake water quality has been very good and the lake has exhibited normal stratification patterns, likely attributable to this summer’s cooler, relatively wet weather. Almost 80 percent of the watershed upstream of the lake is forested, so lake water quality is generally very good. However, water quality in the watershed is impacted by legacy coal mine drainage, new shale gas development, and agricultural and urban runoff.