TMDL reevaluation: Reconciling internal phosphorus load reductions in a eutrophic lake

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Total maximum daily loads (TMDLs) are assigned to impaired waterbodies and provide a prescription for recovery. It is implicit that both the existing conditions and targets identified in a TMDL are based on credible and accurate information, ensuring that management actions directed to recovery are appropriate and effective. We evaluated the TMDL for phosphorus in Bear Lake, Michigan, to assess if the prescribed reduction was appropriately based on existing annual internal loads. We developed 5 different annual internal load scenarios based on phosphorus release rates from laboratory-based sediment incubations and diel dissolved oxygen measurements, ranging from very conservative to very liberal estimates of phosphorus release. The most realistic scenarios indicate that the previously established TMDL for internal phosphorus loading is 3-7 times greater than what actually occurs in Bear Lake. Based on our assessment, Bear Lake is likely already meeting the TMDL internal loading target, without the implementation of any management action. Thus, management efforts aimed at reducing the water column phosphorus concentration to reach the TMDL target should instead be directed at controlling the external phosphorus load.




Steinman, A. D., & Ogdahl, M. E. (2015). TMDL reevaluation: Reconciling internal phosphorus load reductions in a eutrophic lake. Lake and Reservoir Management, 31(2), 115–126.

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