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.