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Citizens Statewide Lake Assessment Program (CSLAP)

The Citizens Statewide Lake Assessment Program (CSLAP) is a volunteer lake monitoring and education program that is managed cooperatively by DEC and New York State Federation of Lake Associations (NYSFOLA). The program was adapted from successful volunteer monitoring programs in Vermont, Maine, Minnesota, and Illinois. CSLAP is one of the longest running, continuous, volunteer monitoring programs in the nation. Through this program, relationships between lake associations, academic and private research institutions, and local and state entities are built statewide.

CSLAP volunteer collecting water sample with Kemmerer sampler on Kirk Lake
CSLAP volunteer collecting water sample
with Kemmerer sampler on Kirk Lake.

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The program has delivered high quality data to many DEC programs for more than 30 years. The program is an excellent example of a successful volunteer monitoring program.

  • Volunteers are trained in approved sampling methods
  • Certified labs are used to analyze the water samples
  • Lake data are interpreted by professionals

Why do we have CSLAP?

New York State residents and visitors enjoy more than 7500 lakes, ponds, and reservoirs. To protect NYS waterbodies, more information is needed than can be collected by state officials.

CSLAP was established in 1985 (PDF) by DEC and the NYSFOLA to help understand lake conditions and use the data to inform lake management plans. In 1988, the state Environmental Conservation Law (ECL), the legislation that established DEC and authorizes most of the programs and activities of DEC, was amended to authorize CSLAP. The ECL 17-0305 legislation provided permanence to the program, and ensured that the lake monitoring program would continue.

Who participates in CSLAP?

A canoe next to a dock along the shore of a pond.
Lake associations represent small ponds and
large lakes.

The lake associations and volunteers in the CSLAP program are diverse and spread throughout New York State. Trained CSLAP volunteers regularly collect data from more than 150 lakes annually, and over 2,000 volunteers have sampled more than 270 lakes since 1985. Lake associations collect information from public and private lakes ranging in size from small ponds to large lakes.

Participating lake associations and volunteers are concerned citizens dedicated to conserving and protecting water resources and providing data to help develop lake management plans. Volunteers range educational and scientific backgrounds, and include: lake residents and users, teachers, lakefront community, students, and scientists.

How does CSLAP work?

Through CSLAP, DEC and NYSFOLA organize and train volunteers to collect lake water samples, participate in special studies, and promote statewide lake stewardship. DEC and NYSFOLA provide the equipment and supplies to volunteers to collect, process, and ship water samples for analysis to a qualified laboratory.

CSLAP has three major objectives:

  • Collect lake data for representative lakes throughout NYS
  • Identify lake problems and changes in water quality
  • Educate the public about lake conservation

Collect data

CSLAP volunteer measuring the depth of water clarity with a secchi disk.
CSLAP volunteer measuring
the depth of water clarity
with a secchi disk.

Trained CSLAP volunteers collect lake data following a consistent, reproducible way using the same equipment, approved sampling procedures, and laboratories. The data are added to the statewide lake database to help detect changes in water quality over time. The data also increases the total number of lakes that are sampled statewide and improves our understanding of the overall water quality of NYS lakes.

The data are also used to report water quality information to federal, state, and local government and to document lake conditions for present or future management by lake associations and individuals. The water quality data and user perception surveys contribute to developing state water quality standards and build a framework for understanding the relationship between lake conditions and lake uses

Some volunteers collect additional data on aquatic vegetation, lake levels, angler and boating use, zebra mussels, and shoreline assessments information. These studies increase our understanding of lake uses and ecology.

Identify lake problems

Regular lake monitoring keeps track of existing problems, detects threats to lakes before they become a problem, and helps to evaluate lake condition patterns throughout NYS. Lake residents and trained volunteers are in a position to observe lake changes and compare them to baseline conditions to detect emerging problems.

Public education

Volunteers who participate in CSLAP gain a better understanding of lake ecology and lake management practices and provide local knowledge and a historical perspective on changes in lake condition. CSLAP volunteers have a strong commitment to conserve and protect lake resources. Volunteers help local communities better understand what is happening in the lake by sharing their knowledge and enthusiasm. Volunteers also help to detect both abrupt and subtle changes and report on algal blooms, fish kills, and the detection of invasive species.

CSLAP Reports

CSLAP reports are created from data collected by volunteers. The data collected from May through October is primarily related to lake eutrophication. Lake reports are not available for all CSLAP lakes. Reports from the most recent year are available here (leaves DEC website). Reports from 1997 through the current year can be found on the New York State Federation of Lake Associations (NYSFOLA) website (leaves DEC website). For historical reports (before 1997) please contact the Division of Water.

CSLAP and NYSFOLA

What does NYSFOLA do?

NYSFOLA is a non-profit group of lake associations, individual citizens, park districts, lake managers, environmental organizations, and consultants dedicated to the preservation and restoration of NYS lakes and watersheds.

The goals and objectives of NYSFOLA are to protect the water resources of New York through public outreach, education, sharing information, and partnerships. NYSFOLA was founded in 1983 to address water quality concerns and invasive species issues for concerned lake associations. The organization expanded following the launch of CSLAP and the program continues to be an important part of their mission.

What services does NYSFOLA provide?

NYSFOLA is involved in many activities in lake communities; NYSFOLA:

  • Provides annual training for CSLAP volunteers
  • Hosts an annual lake management conference for government, academic, and lake managers
    Cover of the publication, Diet for a Small Lake
    Diet for a Small Lake was collaboratively published
    by DEC and NYSFOLA and serves as a valuable
    resource to understanding lake management in NY.
  • Organizes regional conferences to focus on local topics
  • Promotes educational projects and distributes Diet for a Small Lake, a lake management book written in collaboration with DEC
  • Participates in advisory groups
  • Represents New York State lake associations as an affiliate of the North American Lake Management Society (NALMS)

Diet for a Small Lake

NYSFOLA and DEC published Diet for a Small Lake: The Expanded Guide to New York State Lake and Watershed Management in 2009. The book is the result of several years of collaboration on lake management issues, and replaces the first edition of the book published in 1990.

Diet is an introduction to understanding and managing New York State lakes and provides guidance to lakeshore residents, local officials and agencies interested in water resources:

  • Introduction to lake ecology
  • Descriptions of lake restoration and watershed management methods
  • Short lake management case studies
  • Lake-related New York State laws and regulations
  • Guidance for preparing a watershed management plan

For more information

Although there are several DEC stewardship programs available to budding scientists and other interested citizens, CSLAP participation is limited to volunteers from NYSFOLA member lake associations interested in conducting sampling on their lake. Please visit the NYSFOLA webpage to learn more about CSLAP (leaves DEC website).


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