Algae Awareness and Analysis

  • Algae growth near a Lake George dock, spring 2014
  • Cladophora algae under the microscope
  • Example of excessive algae growth in Lake George

Algae & Water Quality

As described in the State of the Lake document, Lake George is now facing fundamental threats; including declining water quality and decreasing clarity.   These threats are complex and connected.  As presented in the Fate of the Lake document, The FUND for Lake George is leading the way to lasting protection with one goal: stopping the present decline of water quality and achieving sustained protection of Lake George for the next generation.  

Natural Lake George; Minimal algae growthThis goal is being accomplished through partnerships, program initiatives and direct investments.  One of The FUNDs program initiatives focused on identifying point source problems and assisting property owners with halting runoff and tracking impacts, The Algae Awareness and Analysis program, couples routine monitoring efforts with samples submitted by the public to determine point source problems and identifying solutions. 

While Lake George has been historically clean and clear, with very limited near-shore algae growth, limited deep water phytoplankton and an expansive Nitella meadow.  Point source problems including; fertilizers, wastewater, detergents, and stormwater, have contributed to excessive nuisance near-shore algal growth and an increase in phytoplankton deep-water. 

Near-shore algae (periphyton), is commonly used to identify changes in water quality world-wide, however, the use of near-shore algae within lakes, is new to the United States. Lake George is one of the few lakes within the United States to utilize this groundbreaking method and establish metrics for analysis. 

Near-shore algae growth will indicate impacts to water quality and clarity before offshore chemical monitoring efforts.  The near-shore algae will still indicate an impact, even after the source has diluted.  Near-shore algae can be utilized to detect impacts from: salt, pollution, silt, sewage, and heavy metals.  

Near-shore algae; covers rocks, docks and plants.

The near-shore algae growth removes a majority of the excessive nutrients that enter the lake keeping the lake clear, however changes indicated within The State of the Lake: Thirty Years of Water Quality Monitoring on Lake George, show that not all these nutrients are being removed near-shore and are entering at a rate that can’t be up-taken by near-shore algae and plants.  As documented within the 30-year study, we have seen a 33% increase in the deep-water phytoplankton, which thrive on increased nutrients.  As the phytoplankton grow, they reduce the sunlight that filters down to the Nitella meadows.  Without the sunlight, the Nitella meadows will shrink, allowing more nutrients to be available for phytoplankton growth, and decreasing water even clarity further.   As the phytoplankton population shifts to being dominated by Cyanobacteria (blue-green algae) there is the potential for toxic conditions to form. 

Expansive Nitella MeadowThe trends in increasing near-shore algae and deep-water phytoplankton growth stimulated by nutrient loading should be taken as warning signs.  These signs require prompt attention and trend changing action to secure the natural beauty and wonder that make Lake George, Lake George. 



Public submission of algal samples

To participate in the Algae Awareness and Analysis Initiative by submitting a sample for analysis, please contact: The FUND for Lake George at (518) 668 9700.

Collection Information

•    Collect algae by scraping off of rocks, docks and any hard substrate. 
•    Any free floating algae can be picked up in the collection container (bag/ bottle etc.)
•    If algae are attached to a plant, break off a piece and include in sample.
•    Store sample in fridge or cool area until dropped off for analysis. 
•    All samples must be accompanied by the Chain of Custody Form. 
•    Drop samples off to: The FUND for Lake George office: 2199A Route 9, Lake George NY
•    Please allow up to 2 weeks for sample to be processed. 

Review of 2014 public samples submitted for analysis

•    15% of the samples indicated organic pollution present, ranging from moderate to severe.  The metrics used, key in on forms of algae that indicate sewage.

•    73% of the samples indicated trophic impaction, indicating excessive nutrients present from fertilizers or stormwater runoff. 

•    83% of the samples contained forms of Cyanobacteria. Forms that could potentially cause a toxic condition.  6% of samples were dominated by forms of Cyanobacteria.