Department of Environmental Conservation

D E C banner

CSLAP Sampling Activities

The Citizens Statewide Lake Assessment Program (CSLAP) is a long term water quality monitoring program that helps to identify water quality issues, detect seasonal and long term patterns, and inform volunteers and lake residents about conditions in their lake.

Water Quality Monitoring

CSLAP volunteers collect 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 also collect information on:

Sampling Methodology

DEC and NYSFOLA train volunteers from participating lake associations to collect water samples.

Every other week during the summer months, 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 clarity
  • Lake depth
  • Recreation quality of the lake and algal conditions based on the user's perception

Lake Parameters

A variety of parameters are collected during each sampling event and help evaluate nutrient enrichment, excessive weed and algae growth. The Lake Parameter Fact Sheets (PDF) document has more detailed information about the parameters.

Lake Parameters
Parameter Importance
temperature (°C)
Water temperature affects the growth of plants and animals, the amount of oxygen in the water, and the length of the recreation season.
Water clarity (m) Water clarity is determined 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. Conductivity 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 impact 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 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 captures the user's observations of the quality of the lake for recreational use.

Lake Perception

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

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

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.

Harmful Algal Blooms

Cyanobacteria, or blue-green algae, can form harmful algal blooms (HABs) that discolor the water or produce floating rafts or scums on the surface of the water. There is a risk of health effects in people and animals who are exposed to HABs.

CSLAP volunteers collect specific lake information and samples related to HABs so as to contribute to scientists' understanding of blooms.

Invasive Species Surveillance

Aquatic plant samples in a sorting tray on a boat.
CSLAP volunteers processing macrophyte
samples for the aquatic plant survey.

Early discovery of invasive species is necessary to fully remove and control the invasives before dense colonies form and cause ecological problems. The best front line of defense against invasives 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 invasives 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 for 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 identifying location information.
Lake level and/or rain gauge information Records changes in the lake water level with a staff gauge. Changes in water levels can affect lakeshore development, recreational use, and plants and animals. This information can be used to 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 Collects information from anglers to understand what fish are being caught, the frequency of fishing, the lake access for fishing, fishing locations, invasive species spread prevention actions, and the satisfaction with fishing experience.
Boater survey Counts total number of boats on the lake to calculate lake use capacity and observes boats in use on the lake to identify lake recreational activities and calculate the recreational use capacity.
Zebra mussel survey Samples 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: