New Report on Lake Macatawa Water Quality Provides a Surprising Evaluation of the Lake's Condition

Press release date: Fri Jan 4th, 2013
City of Holland Michigan Official Website

A recently-released report on the water quality of Lake Macatawa has revealed some interesting and unexpected results. 


UPDATED (2/5/2013):  On the February edition of Holland City Connections, Hope College Professor Graham Peaslee discusses his research on Lake Macatawa with host Nancy DeBoer.  See the link below for the full episode online.


Lake Macatawa is plagued both by sediment that runs off land during rain events and elevated levels of phosphorus.   Generous private donors funded the Lake Macatawa Water Quality Research Project and the research was a collaborative effort by Hope College, the Macatawa Watershed Project, and the Outdoor Discovery Center (with additional assistance by Grand Valley State University's Annis Water Resources Institute and Michigan State University). 

The Phase One Report (complete report linked below) determined, among other things that:

  • Most of the sediment and phosphorus originate in the outer edges of the Lake Macatawa watershed before being transported downstream during large rain events;
  • Bacteria like E. coli that accumulates near Dunton Park in Holland Charter Township after large rain events primarily originate from non-animal sources and most likely come from tile drain systems underneath fields of row crops;
  • Drought conditions during the summer of 2012 led to extensive algal blooms for the first time in many decades.  While visually unpleasant, the presence of these blooms was a surprising and welcome occurrence:  the blooms are an ecological "tipping point" where there has been a sufficient reduction in the amount of sediment (due to no rain and runoff), resulting in clearer lake conditions which can foster algal blooms.  Efforts made over the past 15 years, since the last similar drought, led to improved lake conditions during this drought.  While this occurrence was temporary, permanent reductions in the amount of sediment and nutrients entering the lake would quickly lead to a much cleaner lake.

In December 2012, Dr. Graham Peaslee of Hope College presented this report and its findings to the Policy Committee of the Macatawa Area Coordinating Council.  A video link of that presentation is below. 

Policy-makers and the community at large now know where most of the sediment and phosphorus are coming from -- and also know that additional efforts at keeping them from the watershed will quickly result in a much cleaner Lake Macatawa.