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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 30th 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 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 2015 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 2015 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 2015, 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 2015, 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 2015, water quality improved from the upper channels to the dam, as indicated by decreasing total phosphorus, total nitrogen, and chlorophyll-a concentrations and increasing Secchi depth with decreasing distance to the dam. The average total phosphorus concentration in the lake decreased slightly in 2015, down 15.6 percent from last year, as did the average total nitrogen concentration, down 21.6 percent from last year. Average chlorophyll-a concentration increased this year by 151.9 percent. However, it is important to note that chlorophyll-a values were significantly lower than normal last year. The average chlorophyll-a concentration last year was 2.7 ppb. This year's average chlorophyll concentration of 6.8 ppb is not significantly higher than the 10 year average concentration of 5.8 ppb. The average Secchi depth has held fairly steady for the past several years and was the same value as last year, 2.3 m.

In 2015 the average combined TSI was below 50 (46.9), indicating that, on average, the lake is in the early stages of eutrophic conditions. However, the TSI did increase slightly from the 2014 value of 45.1. Similar to 2014, all three trophic status indicators are consistent with beginning stages of eutrophication. The eutrophic area of the lake has now moved 1 mile closer to the dam (18 miles in 2014 to 17 miles in 2015).


    1. Conclusions – Algae in Smith Mountain Lake

      Green algae were the dominant algal population group found in Smith Mountain Lake in 2015. Blue-green algae levels remained low in 2015 and there were no reports of algal blooms by lake residents. Although green algae counts were higher in some sample dates this is still mostly due to the large number of single celled Chlorella species. The highest levels of algae in the lake are found at the headwater sites and some marina sites. Rainfall timing and levels may be one of the highest influences on algal growth and is likely tied to higher nitrogen levels. Preliminary observations of rainfall data seem to correspond with spikes in algal growth and should be monitored in 2016. Newly released global studies on lakes indicate a temperature rise in lakes worldwide (O’Reilly et al, 2015). This should be monitored at Smith Mountain Lake to determine its impact on lake water quality. When water temperatures warm over time, it will be important to continue to sample regular sites and sites reported by residents in shallow coves around the lake where algal blooms are reported.


    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 the animals. Continued study of thermal stratification, using depth profiling, and 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 2015 were slightly higher than they were in 2014. Since we started measuring E. coli in 2006, the 2013 counts were the highest and the 2014 counts were the lowest. The 2015 data are more typical of bacterial populations found in the lake. The comparison of marinas and non-marinas showed differences in E. coli values in 2015 as usual, and showed a higher mean in marina sites than in non-marina sites (118 percent higher at marina sites).

Download 2015 Complete Final WQM Report
Download 2015 WQM Summary Briefing
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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