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CSLAP Sampling Activities

New York State Citizens Statewide Lake Assessment Program (CSLAP) is a long term water quality monitoring program. The data collected through the program is used to identify water quality issues, detect seasonal and long term patterns, and inform volunteers and lake residents about water quality conditions in their lake.

Water Quality Monitoring

CSLAP volunteers collect valuable lake water quality data following standard methods to evaluate nutrient enrichment, aquatic weed and algae growth, and the recreational quality of the lake.

various water sampling equipments displayed on a table
CSLAP volunteers filter lake water samples
before shipping to a laboratory for analysis.

In addition to water quality sampling, CSLAP volunteers collect information on:

Sampling Methodology

DEC and NYSFOLA train volunteers from participating lake associations (or other organizations, such as park districts) to collect water samples.

Every other week for 15 weeks, volunteers collect water samples at the deepest part of the lake for lab analysis and record the following information on field data sheets:

  • weather conditions
  • water temperature
  • water transparency
  • lake depth
  • recreation quality of the lake and algal conditions based on the user's perception

The table below describes the parameters collected during each sampling event.

Lake Parameters

A variety of parameters are collected to help evaluate nutrient enrichment and excessive weed and algae growth. The Lake Parameter Fact Sheets (PDF) (105 KB) document has more detailed information about the parameters.

Lake Parameters
Parameter Importance
temperature (°C)
Water temperature affects the growth of plants and animals and the amount of oxygen in the water. It also affects the length of the water recreation season.
Water clarity (m) Water clarity is measured with a secchi disk to measure how far down into the water column you can see.
Conductivity measures the amount of dissolved and suspended materials in the water, including salts and organic material. The amount of particles in the water may be related to geology or land use practices.
pH pH measures water acidity. A pH value between 6 and 9 supports most types of plant and animal life.
Color (true)
(platinum color units)
Water color is affected by organic matter (decaying plants). The color of water can affect water clarity and influence plant growth by limiting the amount of sunlight that can pass through the water.
(total, mg/l)
Phosphorus is an important nutrient for the growth of aquatic plants and animals in lakes. Too much phosphorus can harm aquatic life, water supplies, and recreational uses.
Nitrogen (nitrate, ammonia, and total dissolved, mg/l) Nitrogen is also an important nutrient for the growth of aquatic plants and animals in lakes. Too much nitrogen can harm aquatic life, water supplies and recreational uses.
Chlorophyll a
Chlorophyll a is the primary pigment in green plants and estimates the amount of algae in a lake. The amount of chlorophyll a may be influenced by the amount of phosphorus and can affect the water clarity.
Calcium (mg/l) Calcium is an important nutrient for most aquatic organisms and is required for mussel shell growth. Calcium enters lakes through natural limestone deposits. Calcium concentration is related to lake conductivity and improves the lake's buffering capacity to acid rain.
Use Impairment Surveys Four question survey on the Field Observation Form that capture the user's observations of the quality of the lake for recreational use. This information is then linked to the water quality data.

Lake Perception

CSLAP volunteers assess how clear the water looks, the abundance of aquatic plants, the overall recreational quality of the lake, and the current lake conditions that affect the recreational use of the lake. The information is recorded on the field observations form as part of water sampling and help indicate if there are impairments to using the lake.

The information tracks the lake's "normal" conditions and contributes to developing state water quality standards and the development of nutrient criteria. Trained CSLAP volunteers have familiarity and experience with the conditions on their respective lakes and can provide valuable insight to periodic changes that may be overlooked in most professional monitoring programs.

blue-green harmful algal bloom
CSLAP volunteers collect information to help better
understand blue-green harmful algal blooms.

Harmful Algal Blooms

Blue-green algae, technically known as cyanobacteria, can form harmful algal blooms (HABs) that discolor the water or produce floating rafts or scums on the surface of the water. These can cause health risks to people and animals who are exposed to them.

CSLAP volunteers collect specific lake information and samples related to harmful algal blooms. This information is part of a shared data set to help scientists better understand blue-green HABs.

Invasive Species Surveillance

Early discovery of invasive species is necessary to fully remove and control the invaders before dense colonies form and cause ecological problems. The best front line of defense against invaders is a large number of trained "eyes on the ground"-lake residents and lake users searching for signs of new invasive species.

CSLAP volunteers have been vital in understanding the distribution of NYS invasive species in NYS. In several cases, CSLAP volunteers were the first to find new invaders outside of their known range. More importantly, several CSLAP volunteers spotted new invasive species populations early enough to successfully remove them.

Special Studies

CSLAP volunteers may also collect information or special studies including:

Special Studies
Special Study Name Description
Aquatic plant survey Documents the distribution of macrophytes within the near shore areas of the lake by collecting plant samples, estimating abundance, and location information.
Lake level and/or rain gauge information Record changes in the lake water level with a staff gauge. Changes in lake water levels can affect lakeshore development, recreational use, and plants and animals. When the information is measured together it can relate lake levels to rain events.
Shoreline assessment Evaluates the growth of periphyton as an indication of nearshore and shoreline development or disturbance.
Angler survey Collect information from anglers to better understand what fish are being caught, how frequently anglers are fishing on the lake, how anglers access the lake for fishing, where anglers fish, the actions anglers are taking to prevent the spread of invaders, and their satisfaction with fishing experience.
Boater survey Count total number of boats on the lake to calculate the lake use capacity and observe boats in use on the lake to identify lake recreational activities and calculate the recreational use capacity.
Zebra mussel survey Sample for the presence of zebra mussels by using a simple "drop a block" sampling method.

What DEC programs and activities do the data support?

Volunteer-collected data are used in many DEC programs. The data has been used in support of individual lake and statewide management decisions, water quality listings, and the development of management plans for CSLAP lakes.

CSLAP data have been used for the following DEC programs: