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About the SMLA Water Quality Monitoring Program
Monitoring the Waters of Smith Mountain Lake Since 1987
Photos of the Cedar Cabin at LakeAway Vacation Rentals on Smith Mountain Lake

Starting this summer SMLA will begin our 31st year of monitoring the quality of the water within the main lake in SML and also where the rivers and streams enter the lake. This is important to insure the water remains safe for everyone to use and enjoy. We have approximately 60 SMLA member volunteers monitoring 85 sites around the lake during the summer. It is easy, fun and rewarding to know that as a monitor you are good stewards of this beautiful lake as well as helping to insure that water quality remains healthy.

Actually the quality of the water in SML is remarkable for a fifty-two year old lake and showing little signs of change over the last 10 years. SMLA is proud of that fact and our water quality monitoring program. SMLA’s partners during the last 30 years of water quality monitoring are the many volunteers and Ferrum College. There many SMLA volunteers who have given freely their time and use of the their boat and gas to go out and check the clarity of the lake water and collect samples of the water at their prescribed sites around the lake six times during the summer. Ferrum College Professors, staff and student interns conduct additional monitoring and perform all of the analysis of the water and biological samples in their exceptional environmental sciences laboratory on their beautiful campus located in Ferrum Virginia. The resulting data is reported to the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality, Virginia Department of Health, the volunteers, SMLA members and the public. If there is an issue with the quality of the water SMLA promptly alerts our members, the public and respective agencies.

To be a Water Quality Monitor contact Larry Iceman at icemanle@gmail.com or call the SMLA office at (540) 719-0690. Please leave your name, phone #, and or E-mail address and state your interest and or question if no one is available to answer the phone. Ferrum College provides the monitoring equipment and training for the volunteers. No prior experience is required to be a monitor. It is a good family fun boating activity. Their will be a kickoff meeting in May. Please call or e-mail for details. You will need a boat, ice chest for water and the samples, sunscreen and sunglasses.

While boating and monitoring the water please wear your life jackets. It is your life you are protecting as well as any others on your boat. Your Safety comes first.

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Volunteer Monitors
Training and Duties
Water Quality Monitoring Volunteers on Smith Mountain Lake

Each monitoring season begins in mid-May with a training and organizational meeting hosted by SMLA and Ferrum College.  Over 80 volunteers monitor 50 sites by measuring water clarity using a secchi disc and collecting water samples from a boat every other week (6 - 1 hour events) until mid-August. Student interns from Ferrum College travel around the lake every other week to pick up the samples for analysis at the Ferrum College Water Quality Lab.

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Water Quality Monitoring Reports
Read the Results; Follow the Trends
SMLA Water Quality Monitoring Reports

1. EXECUTIVE SUMMARY from the 2016 Final Report

The Smith Mountain Lake Volunteer Water Quality Monitoring Program was initiated in 1987 and has functioned each year since. The Smith Mountain Lake Association and scientists from Ferrum College cooperatively administer the program. The mission of the program is to monitor water quality in Smith Mountain Lake and to encourage active participation of the lake community in protecting this resource.

The 2016 monitoring season began in mid-May with a training and organizational meeting. The volunteer monitors measured water clarity and collected water samples every other week until mid-August. Student interns from Ferrum College traveled around the lake every other week to pick up the samples for analysis at the Ferrum College Water Quality Lab. During this trip, the interns also collected grab samples from 21 tributaries that were analyzed for total phosphorus. Also on a bi-weekly schedule, Ferrum College personnel collected additional lake samples for bacterial analysis. Twice during the season, samples were collected from tributaries (22 in May and 22 in August) for bacterial source tracking.

The trophic status (an indication of the degree of aging a lake has sustained) of Smith Mountain Lake is monitored by measuring three parameters: total phosphorus as an indicator of nutrient enrichment, chlorophyll-a as an indicator of algal biomass, and Secchi depth as an indicator of water clarity. According to the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality, enumerating the bacterial species chosen as indicator organisms assesses bacterial water quality. In 2016, E. coli was again enumerated to assess the bacterial populations in Smith Mountain Lake.

Depth profile monitoring has continued to provide interesting insights about the dynamics of Smith Mountain Lake. At five locations in the main channels of the lake, measurements of dissolved oxygen, temperature, pH and conductivity are taken as a function of depth. These profiles are measured six times during the summer.

In 2016, plankton tow samples were taken during the summer for two types of sample sites. Horizontal plankton tow samples were collected and analyzed six times at bacterial sampling sites, and vertical plankton tow samples were collected and analyzed five times at depth profile monitoring sites. Algae were identified and grouped by algal divisions.


1.1 Conclusions – Trophic Status

In 2016, water quality demonstrated they typical pattern as evidence by increasing total phosphorus, total nitrogen, and chlorophyll-a concentrations and Secchi depths with decreasing distance to the dam. The average total phosphorus concentration in the lake increased in 2016, up 28.2 percent from last year, as did the average total nitrogen concentration, up 55.5 percent from last year. Average chlorophyll-a concentration increased this year by 27.9 percent. The average Secchi depth has held fairly steady for the past several years and was the slightly lower at 2.1 m from 2.3m in 2015.

In 2016 the average combined TSI was below 50 (48.8), indicating that, on average, the lake is in the early stages of eutrophic conditions. However, the TSI did increase slightly from the 2015 value of 46.9. Similar to 2015, all three trophic status indicators are consistent with beginning stages of eutrophication.


    1. Conclusions – Algae in Smith Mountain Lake

      For most of the 2016 sampling season, the algal population levels in Smith Mountain Lake remained relatively low but there were some changes that should be noted. The green algae were not the dominant group this year even though abundance was higher early in the season following early season rainfall. The overall percentages of green algae were lower in 2016. The higher levels occurred mainly in the Headwaters and a few marina sites. The green alga Chlorella continued to dominate green algal counts as in 2015 in the beginning of the summer following rainfall events in early June. Both diatoms and blue-green algae counts were higher in a number of sites this summer unlike the continued low levels in previous years. A blue-green species of Oscillatoria was the dominant blue-green. the overall percentage of diatoms was again higher than the previous year (2015) and much higher at the end of the season in the headwater sites). In some cases, diatoms have been found to increase when lake levels vary. It may be that fluctuations in the lake as a result of low rainfall might have contributed to this.

    2. Conclusions – Dissolved Oxygen, Temperature, pH and Conductivity Lake Depth Profiles

      Sufficient depth profile data have now been collected to enable meaningful comparison between rates of change and absolute parameter values over the course of the summer. The temperature profiles indicate that the thermocline at most sample sites is moving lower in the water column. The bottom of the lake becomes anaerobic (zero parts per million dissolved oxygen) in June rather than July. This is problematic as it impacts aquatic life by forcing them to move closer to the surface earlier in the summer, thus increasing thermal stress on animals. Atmospheric carbon dioxide is increasing and could affect Smith Mountain Lake. Increased carbon dioxide will promote photosynthesis and increased algal production; while DO will increase at the surface, the amount of organic matter settling into the hypolimnion will also increase and the oxygen deficit will become more severe. Continued depth profiling and study of algal dynamics will provide the scientific data necessary to effectively manage Smith Mountain Lake as it ages.

    3. Conclusions – Escherichia coli Measurements and Bacterial Source Tracking

      The bacteria populations, specifically E. coli, in Smith Mountain Lake in 2016 were significantly higher they were in 2015 and 2014. In 2016 the mean E. coli count was 71.7+ 188.9 MPN, which is 447 percent higher than the 2015 E. coli count (13.1+30.5 MPN). Since we started measuring E. coli in 2005, the 2013 average counts were the highest and the 2014 average counts were the lowest. The 2016 data show another high count of E. coli populations found in the lake. The comparison of marinas and non-marinas showed differences in E. coli values in the last four years (2013-2016) as usual, and showed a higher mean in 2016 in marina sites than in non- marina sites (161 percent higher at marina sites). Due to the efforts of the Smith Mountain Lake Association Boater Education and Pump Out Program, our boaters’ and marina owners’ vigilance and the implementation of the Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL) process we are making some progress on reducing bacterial numbers at least in the bacteria contributed by human sources. Continued diligence is required to achieve further warranted reductions. Continued diligence is required to achieve further warranted reductions.

      Download 2016 Complete Final WQM Report
      Download 2015 Complete Final WQM Report
      Download 2014 Complete Final WQM Report
      Download 2013 Complete Final WQM Report
      Download 2012 Complete Final WQM Report
      Download 2011 Complete Final WQM Report
      Download 2010 Complete Final WQM Report
      Download 2009 Complete Final WQM Report
      Download 2008 Complete Final WQM Report
      Download 2007 Complete Final WQM Report
      Download 2006 Complete Final WQM Report

       

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LaSota Cottage Rates
Discounts in Fall, Winter & Spring; The beauty of the Lake is never discounted!
Rates Master
Occupancy 4 Occupancy is strictly enforced.  See Policies
 2015 Rates  
September 7th to  135 Daily -2 night minimum
December 31st 810 Weekly
Housekeeping 95
Damage Deposit 250 See Policies Page for details
Optional Linen Fee 110 Linens include: Sheets, Pillow Cases and Towels
Taxes (State + Local) 10.3% 5.3% Virginia Sales tax + 5% county occupancy tax
2016 Rates  
January 1st to 135 Daily - 2 night minimum
May 25th 810 Weekly
May 26th to 195 Daily - 2 night minimum
 June 25th 1,170 Weekly
June 26th to 220* Daily* available 2 weeks in advance
August 19th 1,320 Weekly Minimum - Saturday to Saturday
August 20th to  195 Daily - 2 night minimum
September 4th 1,170 Weekly
September5th to  135 Daily -2 night minimum
December 31st 810 Weekly
Housekeeping 95
Damage Deposit 250 See Policies Page for details
Optional Linen Fee 110 Linens include: Sheets, Pillow Cases and Towels
Taxes (State + Local) 10.3% 5.3% Virginia Sales tax + 5% county occupancy tax
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