Nutrient Budget for Proactive Algae Management

The frequency, duration, and intensity of harmful algal blooms increase year to year. Stress on waterbodies increases as lakes age, watersheds are developed, and climates warm. This brings great socio-economic losses and the need for better management strategies. The solutions require us to focus on root causes (i.e., nutrients) instead of expensive reactive management strategies. Phosphorus (P) and nitrogen (N) are the primary nutrients governing HAB issues in lakes. Therefore, the first step to any long-term Harmful Algal Bloom Management Plan starts with understanding P and N loading and the experts at Vertex are able to offer an array of issue-based Lake Management Consulting Services.

Constructing a nutrient budget that determines the total (particulate and dissolved) and active (dissolved) amounts of P and N loading from external (i.e., watershed, atmospheric, waterfowl, groundwater, etc.) and internal sources provides the framework to set nutrient loading goals appropriate to the waterbody. Nutrient budgets also provide a means to identify and rank nutrient sources that contribute to HABs. From this, a cost-benefit analysis is conducted to rank management strategies designed to meet permissible nutrient loading rates.

Nutrient Budget Example

For example, here is a nutrient budget that was conducted for a small 18-acre eutrophic lake with seasonal HAB issues. Most of the active P and N load causing late summer HABs came from internal nutrient recycling and septic systems. Stakeholders now had the needed information to fix their lake and could begin the next phase of HAB management. They conducted a cost-benefit analysis looking at restoration strategies aimed at addressing all nutrient sources. However, for maximum effect, they kept the focus on internal and septic system loads.

Nutrient Budget

The construction of a nutrient budget will depend on the resolution required for the project. We need to know what data needs to be collected first. Sometimes a low-cost relative nutrient budget is all that is required in order to make a well-informed management decision. Ask us if constructing a nutrient budget is worthwhile for your lake.

HAB Management Plans Start With A Nutrient Budget!


Vertex Aquatic Solutions, founded in 1977, is the professionals’ choice for research based scientific consulting services, aeration systems, floating fountains, bubble curtains and biological products to enhance water quality in lakes, ponds, canals, marinas and reservoirs. As respected leaders in the lake management industry the Vertex team of aquatic biologists, limnologists, fisheries scientists and engineers work together to deliver science-based, environmentally sound solutions to complex waterbody issues. Our products and services are delivered through an international network of qualified, experienced waterbody professionals who provide local support, service and pond management expertise to customers.

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