Using continuous water-quality measurements and discrete data to identify the drivers of HABs in lakes and tailwaters In Kentucky and Indiana

Science Center Objects

In September 2015, Kentucky Water Science Center scientists, in cooperation with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE), began investigations on two Kentucky lakes and tailwaters. Continuous water quality is collected at both lake and tailwater sites and gage height is monitored at the tailwater sites.


Nolin River Lake near Kyrock, KY

Rough River Lake near Falls of Rough, KY

In 2016, two additional Indiana lake and tailwater systems began assessment.

Brookville Lake, IN

Cecil M. Harden Lake, IN


East Fork Whitewater River gage
East Fork Whitewater River gage

Historically, researchers have relied on discrete sampling at limited intervals and laboratory analyses alone to understand water quality. Data collected at limited intervals may miss major high or low points and the resulting data set may not show rapid changes in constituent concentrations.  By combining discrete samples with continuous nutrient and HAB data, we can provide resource managers with a robust dataset for management decisions.

There have been confirmed cyanobacteria at levels exceeding recommended safety thresholds in the past. Studies in individual lakes, reservoirs, and rivers are needed to identify the environmental factors driving HAB formation and to document the effect of changing environmental conditions of HAB occurrence, especially over many years. We will be collecting continuous water-quality information at these lakes to provide the data needed by resource managers and USACE to make timely decisions regarding HABS, dissolved oxygen, and nutrients. 


Lake continuous water quality sampling

The following water-quality parameters will be collected continuously at two depths:

Near the surface of the lake (3 feet-epilimnion )

  • Nitrate
  • Phycocyanin (blue-green algae)
  • Chlorophyll 
  • Water Temperature 
  • Specific Conductance 
  • Dissolved Oxygen 
  • Turbidity

Near the lake bottom (30 feet-hypolimnion)

  • Phycocyanin (blue-green algae)
  • Chlorophyll
  • Water Temperature
  • Dissolved Oxygen 
  • pH

Tailwater continuous water quality sampling

On the tailwaters, continuous water temperature and dissolved oxygen concentrations are being collected. This data will provide a better understanding of the effects of reservoir operational releases on the tailwater environment in order to maintain desirable downstream aquatic habitat and biota.

Sampling Guidelines