Ryan Neve, an engineering technician at the Institute for Marine Sciences, coils a rope to assist with lowering equipment into Jordan Lake. Neve and scientists are trying to gather more details about the nutrients in the lake.

Since its impoundment as a reservoir in 1983, Jordan Lake’s water quality has raised concerns among natural resource managers. In 2002, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency required the state to develop a plan to protect and restore water quality in the lake. In 2009, the state developed rules intended to reduce the nutrients entering the lake and thus improve the water quality.

Now, the North Carolina legislature has asked researchers at UNC to gather more detailed data about the sources of contamination to the lake, the impacts these are having in the lake, and strategies for controlling these inputs. More than two dozen UNC faculty, staff, and students are engaged in a three-year study that includes the deployment of state-of-the-art instrumentation and laboratory analyses for measuring water quality in the lake.

“We know the total maximum daily load of nutrients has been exceeded,” says Ryan Neve, an engineering technician at the UNC Institute of Marine Sciences (IMS). “But we need this deep dive to learn more about where these are coming from and the extent to which they are causing the lake’s water quality problems.”

Researchers from IMS, the Department of Marine Sciences, and the Institute for the Environment hope to gain that cause-and-effect understanding by combining their expertise in analogous aquatic systems to data that will be coming from this new study.

This is just one of many studies currently underway at Jordan Lake. A full list of current projects can be found at the North Carolina Policy Collaboratory website.

By Mary Lide Parker, Endeavors magazine

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