Cattail Chronicles, Fall 2018 Edition

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Cattail Chronicles: Issues Affecting the Surface Waters of Lake County

Volume 25, Issue 4 | Fall 2018


Squaw Creek Clean Water Alliance: Using Citizen-Science to tackle Water Quality Questions

Written by Laura Risser, SCCWA Volunteer


Photo of volunteers from the Squaw Creek Clean Water Alliance

The Squaw Creek Clean Water Alliance (SCCWA) is an example of residents around a local lake who came together to address a water quality issue. Volunteers with SCCWA banded together to conduct an in-depth water quality monitoring study to gain a better understanding of the health of Long Lake in Ingleside, IL. In 2015, the Lake County Health department confirmed there was a harmful blue-green algae bloom (HAB) on the lake, which initiated local residents to act. HABs have the potential to produce toxins that can be dangerous to human and animal health. Algae blooms occur sporadically in the summer and fall when there is an excess of nutrients, such as nitrogen and in Long Lake's case, phosphorus. These nutrients can enter the lake via fertilizer runoff, sediment runoff, leaking septic systems, or water treatment plant discharges. 

Dedicated volunteers have been collecting water quality data for the last 6 months at an inlet and outlet of Long Lake. The purpose of this is to compare the levels of nutrients and total suspended solids (i.e. sediment)  that are entering the lake to what is leaving the lake. In 2018, there have been only a couple of smaller blue-green algae blooms. This is good news for the residents of Long Lake, however, more data is needed to better understand the extent of the dynamic water quality. The preliminary findings suggest that the water entering the lake (from Mud Lake) is often turbid and the levels of nutrients are slightly higher than what is exiting the lake. The overall goal for SCCWA is to pinpoint where the phosphorus pollution is coming from, which will then allow them to choose appropriate remediation actions.

SCCWA has plans to conduct another monitoring survey next season. Funding is always a concern with watershed groups. SCCWA admits it was challenging to secure funding for their study this season, though it was possible because of the community involvement and generous donors. Originally, SCCWA applied for a grant to fund the $20,000 study, but did not receive it. SCCWA volunteers had to come up with a creative solution to source the money elsewhere, and this is how the Clean Water Boogie idea began. In August, volunteers put on an incredible event called the Clean Water Boogie that brought the Long Lake community together to have fun for a cause. There was a silent and live auction with donated items from various local business and artists, live music, a balloon artist, magician and delicious food (and venue) provided by Jerry’s Parkway. It was a wildly successful event, and they raised more than enough funding for the completion of this year’s study. There are already plans for another study and SCCWA looks forward to collaborating with the supportive community in Lake County again next season!


Samples taken from the inlet and outlet of Long Lake collected by SCCWA volunteers

Leaf Litter, Phosphorus, and Your Lake!


Photo from


As the seasons change, leaves falling from the trees into our yards and streets are a common sight. While most people don't think twice about leaves and the health of the lakes, leaf litter can be a source of nutrients to waterways. The storm drains along streets and curbs are directly or indirectly connected to our rivers, lakes, and wetlands. That means decomposing leaf litter and other organics can easily get washed into surrounding waterbodies. These excess nutrients can then contribute to algae blooms and reduce dissolved oxygen levels in the lakes. 

A study conducted by the United States Geological Survey (USGS) in Madison, Wisconsin looked at the relationship between leaf litter and nutrients in stormwater from residential areas. USGS compared two catchments in residential areas in Madison, one that implemented a street sweeping program to remove leaf litter and one that had no street sweeping practices. The study looked at stormwater flow and phosphorus and nitrogen concentrations in the stormwater. The goal of the study was to determine if removing leaves and organics from streets could reduce the overall nutrient loads to local waters. According to this study, leaves are a significant source of phosphorus in stormwater and approximately 60% of the annual phosphorus yield can come from leaf litter in the fall (see graph below). 

Many cities and towns have a leaf and street cleaning program that helps reduce leaf litter around storm drains. Creative solutions such as  "Adopt a Storm Drain" can be implemented in neighborhoods. "Adopt a Storm Drain" is where residents commit to raking leaves and organic debris from a storm drain near their home. This will help remove potential nutrients as well as reduce  flooding in the streets due to blocked storm drains. Small actions like these stated above can make an impact on your waterways!


Graph showing impacts of leaf litter removal programs from USGS study in Madison, WI

Canada Geese Management


If you live on or recreate around lakes, you have likely encountered your fair share of Canada Geese. Canada Geese are common around Illinois waters. There are different populations of Canada Geese, some migrate north to nest and other populations nest locally. There have been many conflicts associated with Canada Geese in regards to lakes. Geese like to congregate on open areas without tall vegetation. This typically coincides with lake beaches or parks. The main concern is that geese fecal matter can pose a health risk as it can contain E.coli and other pathogens. E.coli are naturally occurring bacteria in the digestive tracts of warm-blooded animals, however when present in large amounts, may cause gastrointestinal problems and can be an indicator of other pathogenic organisms. Sometimes beach closures may be a result of heavy geese populations in the area. 

Another concern with geese is that they can contribute excess nutrients to lakes, which may cause algal blooms. So how much nutrient loading do Canada Geese add to a lake? According to the New Hampshire Department of Environmental Services, geese can consume up to four pounds of grass  which equals about 3 pounds of fecal matter per day. Their fecal matter contains approximately 76% carbon, 4.4% nitrogen and 1.3% phosphorus - all of which can contribute to nutrient loading in our lakes!

What can YOU do about geese?

It's important to know that Canada geese, their nests, and eggs are protected by the Migratory Bird Treaty Act and by Illinois State Law. This means it is prohibited to capture/kill Canada Geese in Illinois outside of the legal hunting season. State permits can be obtained through the Illinois Department of Natural Resources to destroy nests and eggs.

There are other methods to help reduce geese concentrations around lakes. Keeping a shoreline buffer around your lake of bushes, shrubs, native plants, and taller grasses will help keep geese away as geese prefer short grass.  Other options that have been used are noise harassment devices, dogs and swans to chase geese away, plastic scare devices such as owls and coyotes, and habitat modification.

For more information on Canada Geese management, refer to this article by the United States Department of Agriculture: Managing Conflicts in Illinois Created by Canada Geese.

Upcoming Events

Des Plaines River Watershed General Membership Meeting November 15  @ 9:00-11:00 AM                                                                                          

Join DRWW for their annual general membership meeting. Chris Yoder from Midwest Biodiversity Institute (MBI) will present 2017 data results and the IPS tool. The meeting will take place at the Lake County Permit Center (500 W. Winchester Rd., Libertyville, IL)

Great Lakes, Great Issues Lecture Series, November 15  @ 7:00-9:00 PM

Lake Forest Openlands is hosting Dr. Ethan Theuerkauf, an Illinois Coastal Geologist with the University of Illinois in their Great Lakes, Great Issues lecture series.  Dr. Theuerkauf examine coastal geologic change along Lake Michigan. The lecture series is free, but you must register. For more information and to register visit:

ILMA Student Scholarships - Deadline December 30, 2018                            

Do you know a student attending an Illinois college or university or an Illinois resident attending a college or university in Indiana, Minnesota, Ohio, or Wisconsin? The Illinois Lakes Management Association has student scholarships available for students enrolled in a natural resource discipline related to lake and/or watershed management. For more information on eligibility and to apply visit:

34th Annual ILMA Lakes Conference, March 14-16, 2019

The Illinois Lake Management Association is hosting its 34th Annual Conference at the Holiday Inn Crystal Lake Conference Center in Crystal Lake, Illinois from March 14 through March 16, 2019. We are looking to fill out our conference sessions with talks and presentations from professionals, teachers, students, or others with detailed knowledge on issues associated with research and management on lakes, waterways, watersheds, and fisheries. Presentations should be approximatley 20-25 minutes. For more information and to submit an abstract visit:

Lake Management Planning Documents Now on Website


Winter is a great time to start planning management activities for your lake. The Lake County Health Department-Ecological Services (LCHD-ES) and the Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning (CMAP) has hosted a couple Lake Management Planning Workshops. 

There are many components that go into creating a Lake Management Plan for your lake. To help and empower anyone responsible for making lake management decisions, such as homeowner associations, municipalities, and park and forest preserve districts, LCHD and CMAP has created a Lake Management Planning Guide full of useful information, worksheets and templates. These templates are now available online and can be found here: Lake Management Planning Guide

Can You Name This Aquatic Macrophyte?



  • Native Plant
  • Narrow alternate leaves attached directly to the stem and no prominent midvein
  • When flowering - yellow, star-shaped flowers are produced.

Think you know the answer? Email your best guess to

Our Team

Mike Adam, Senior Biologist

Gerard Urbanozo, Water Quality Specialist

Alana Bartolai, Water Quality Specialist