In 1999, the Environment Agency published the West Cumbria Local Environmental Action Plan (LEAP), which concluded, as one of its specific issues for the area, that there was a need for further information on the algal blooms occurring in Loweswater. University College London (UCL) was commissioned to carry out a study to:

  1. Review the literature on the water quality and catchment of Loweswater;
  2. Take a sediment core from the lake and analyse for evidence of eutrophication; and
  3. Assess the severity of eutrophication over recent years, identify the dominant causes and suggest management options for resolving the water quality issue.

You can read tThe full UCL report here. It concluded that the lake is naturally more fertile than many others in the Lake District because of its relatively lowland catchment with well developed soils, there being some evidence of slight enrichment during the last century. Although the exact cause of the enrichment was not clear, this was considered to be a contributing factor to the observed recent trend in blue-green algal bloom incidents. However, the occurrence of algal blooms was considered also likely to be associated with optimal weather conditions such as mild winters, periods of low flushing and warm, calm summers that have been experienced more frequently in the late 1980s and 1990s. The core sample taken was fascinating in itself as the material at the bottom (ca 1m) was calculated to originate from deposition in about 60AD and more recent depths were fixed in relation to the fall-out of radio-active materials from the testing of nuclear weapons in the 1960s and the Chernobyl nuclear reactor incident in 1986.

The report made various recommendations regarding more monitoring and modelling of lake water quality, but, notwithstanding the uncertainty of the precise cause(s) of the algal blooms, also made specific recommendations regarding agricultural practices and the sewage from domestic properties:

  • Agricultural practices:
    • Farmers to address topics such as informed management (storage and application)
      of inorganic and organic (silage and slurry) fertilisers to ensure that their impacts on
      water quality are minimised;
    • Farmers to adhere to codes of good agricultural practice;
    • Farmers to consider implementing Nutrient Management Plans (NMP) to ensure
      that nutrients supplied to crops match the demand as closely as possible; and
    • Stream banks and lakeshores to be fenced in order to limit animal access, as
      animal dung and urine can increase the nutrient load to the lake and provide
      significant BOD loading to the streams.
  • Sewage effluent:
    • Direct discharges from septic tanks to all catchment watercourses should be prevented where possible;
    • Septic tanks should be well maintained and appropriate for current population; and
    • Use of phosphate-free detergents should be encouraged.

Continue to studies by Loweswater Improvement Group