The UF/IFAS Florida LakeWatch program has been in existence since 1986 and was officially recognized by the Florida Legislature in 1991. LakeWatch is the largest lake monitoring program in the nation and is currently monitoring 525 lakes, plus over 300 estuaries, rivers, springs and coastal dune lakes. The Defenders of Crooked Lake have been participating in the volunteer citizen data gathering endeavor since April, 1990. Once each month our volunteers gather water samples, record lake depth, and take Secchi disk readings (for water clarity) from seven different GPS-located sites around the lake. Weather data is noted, and the water samples are processed and sent to UF/IFAS for analysis of nitrogen, phosphorus, and chlorophyll content. All of this data is averaged and used to evaluate the current “health” or trophic (nutritional) state of the lake.
So what does this mean to those of us that love Crooked Lake? If you want to impress your friends, you can tell them that Crooked Lake is a “clear softwater, mesotrophic lake with average clarity of 6.7 feet”. A mesotrophic lake is a clear-water lake having intermediate levels of biological activity, including aquatic vegetation, fish, amphibians, birds, etc. The graphs below show that the measured levels have fluctuated since 1990. But for the past 10 years total nitrogen (TN) levels have been stable, chlorophyll (CHL) levels have decreased, and Secchi readings (clarity) have increased. Remember, though, that as housing development around the lake increases, the lake quality could be affected. We need to keep Crooked clean by minimizing storm water run-off, updating old septic systems, maintaining native vegetation buffers to help filter contaminants, and reducing lawn fertilization close to the lake.