There are 3,256 lakes with a surface area of six acres or more
in Illinois and more than 87,000 ponds. In addition to being valuable
recreational and ecological resources, these waterbodies serve
as potable, industrial and agricultural water supplies; as cooling
water sources; and as flood control structures.
Lakes serve as traps for materials generated within their watersheds.
The trapped material generally impairs water quality and may severely
impact beneficial uses and significantly shorten the life of the
lake. Suspended and deposited sediments can affect certain lake
uses. Excessive aquatic macrophyte (plant) growth and/or algal
blooms often result from the addition of nutrients such as nitrogen
and phosphorus. An overabundance of plant life may tend to limit
recreational and public water supply usage. Lakes may also collect
heavy metal and organic contamination from urban, industrial, and
agricultural sources. Dissolved oxygen deficiencies may limit biological
habitat or result in taste and odor problems for public water supplies.
Lakes are important resources that will continue to
provide beneficial uses only if certain protective and educational
steps are taken. In recognition of this need, in 1981, the Illinois
Environmental Protection Agency established the Volunteer Lake Monitoring
Program (VLMP). The program provides a service to the Agency by harnessing
the time and talent of citizen volunteers to help gather fundamental
information on more Illinois’ inland lakes than could otherwise
be possible with existing staff. This program also serves its volunteers
and the general public by opening a path for citizen involvement
with the environment and providing environmental education and outreach
opportunities for Illinois citizens to learn about lake ecosystems.
This program also serves as a cost-effective method for gathering
fundamental information on inland lakes, which ultimately leads to
making better lake management decisions.