Skip to main content
U.S. flag

An official website of the United States government

Hydrology and water quality of Geneva Lake, Walworth County, Wisconsin

January 1, 1994

As part of continuing efforts to improve the water quality of Geneva Lake, a collaborative effort between the U.S. Geological Survey, the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, and the Geneva Lake Environmental Agency was initiated in 1997 to document the present quality of the lake and its sediments, compute detailed hydrologic and nutrient (primarily phosphorus) budgets for the lake, estimate how changes in nutrient loading may affect water quality, and describe changes in the lake over the past 170 years by comparing water quality measured in this study with historical measurements and sediment-core information. This report presents the results of this collaborative study.

Measurements collected during this study (1997.2000) indicate that the trophic status of the lake ranges from mesotrophic to oligotrophic: the mean Secchi depth was 4.8 m (meters), mean surface phosphorus concentration was 9 ?g/L (micrograms per liter), mean surface nitrogen concentration was 550 ?g/L, and mean surface chlorophyll a concentration was 3 ?g/L. Surface nitrogen: phosphorus ratios indicated that, if just these nutrients are considered, phosphorus should be the limiting nutrient.

Phosphorus budgets constructed for water years 1998 and 1999 indicate that recent annual phosphorus loads were about 2,000 kg (kilograms) less than that estimated in 1975 (total annual input was about 3,200 kg in 1998 and about 8,500 kg in 1999). The major source of phosphorus to the lake was from its tributaries, which contributed about 84 percent of the total load. The primary difference from the phosphorus load estimates for 1975 was the decrease in loading from the Fontana sewage-treatment plant.

Direct measurements and indirect measurements based on sediment-core analyses indicate that the water quality of Geneva Lake has degraded in the last 170 years, the greatest effects resulting from urbanization. Sedimentation rates were highest between 1900 to 1930, and phosphorus concentrations were highest between the 1930s to early 1980s. As a result of the recent reduction in phosphorus loading, in-lake near-surface phosphorus concentrations decreased from 20.25 ?g/L to about 10.15 ?g/L and are similar to those estimated for the lake in the early 1900s. Concentrations of other chemical constituents associated with urban areas, however, have continually increased, especially in Williams Bay and Geneva Bay.

Citation Information

Publication Year 2002
Title Hydrology and water quality of Geneva Lake, Walworth County, Wisconsin
DOI 10.3133/wri024039
Authors Dale M. Robertson, Gerald L. Goddard, Elizabeth A. Mergener, William J. Rose, Paul J. Garrision
Publication Type Report
Publication Subtype USGS Numbered Series
Series Title Water-Resources Investigations Report
Series Number 2002-4039
Index ID wri024039
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization Wisconsin Water Science Center

Related Content