Quantification of Tributary Nutrient Transport and HABs in Lake Wawasee, Indiana’s Largest Natural Lake

A research project funded by the Indiana Water Resources Research Center through the U.S. Geological Survey’s 104B annual base grants (section 104 of the Water Resources Research Act of 1984, as amended).


The Lilly Center for Lakes & Streams at Grace College has been researching local lakes and streams in Kosciusko County, Indiana for 10 years and is at a critical point of expansion. More sophisticated technologies will allow the Lilly Center to provide higher frequencies of increasingly accurate data related to stream flow, nutrient transport, and overall water quality.

This project installed a continuous flow monitoring system in Turkey Creek, one of four inflowing streams entering Lake Wawasee. The purpose of installing this gauge was to share a high frequency of accurate stream flow data in order to eventually identify potential sources of nutrients that may be connected with Harmful Algal Blooms.

Using the data from this continuous monitoring system, the Lilly Center hopes to determine connections between stream flows and harmful blue-green algae blooms in Lake Wawasee.

Figure 1. Locations of continuous flow stream monitors in Kosciusko County, Indiana.

Research Objectives

  1. Install continuous flow monitoring system in Turkey Creek, one of four inflowing streams entering Lake Wawasee.
    • Hourly transmission of data have helped guide the Lilly Center for Lakes & Streams’ sampling efforts.
    • Along with flow, stream’s air and water temperatures, water depth, and speed of water can be measured.
    • Staff can identify and initiate targeted sampling of high flow events.
  2. Serve as a pilot project for the fundraising and installation of additional continuous flow monitoring systems.
    • Two additional continuous flow monitoring systems have been installed around Lake Wawasee.
    • Two additional continuous flow monitoring systems will be installed.

Quantification Page Image

Figure 2. Process of understanding cyanobacteria in local lakes (l to r); (1) stream sensor to help identify high-flow rain events and locate where nutrients may be coming in, (2) Microcysis cells under a microscope, (3) gathering water samples for identification of cyanobacteria and green algae, (4) using analytical equipment, microsystin levels can be measured, and (5) cyanobacteria blooms can resemble spilled green paint. [Figure taken from Beneath the Surface, 2019].

Researcher Profile

Principal Investigator
Principal Investigator, Dr. Nathan Bosch is Director of the Lilly Center for Lakes & Streams and Professor at Grace College.









What Does This Mean For Indiana?

A thorough understanding of how human activities impact lakes and streams is extremely important when considering water quality of these natural resources. Through human activities, nutrients and sediments can be introduced to lakes directly through runoff by way of inflowing streams. An example of this relationship between human activity and nutrient transport through streams to lakes can be seen around Lake Wawasee, Indiana’s largest natural lake. Turkey Creek, which flows through primarily agricultural land before reaching the south side of Lake Wawasee, brings a large amount of nutrients into the lake. These nutrients feed algae, and potentially HABs, which can affect overall water quality as well as lower the economic impact of the lake.

As part of this project, a continuous flow monitoring system was installed in Turkey Creek. This served as a pilot project which has successfully led to the installation of two more monitoring systems now installed around Lake Wawasee, and two more will be installed in the future.

Training The Next Generation

One of the missions of the Indiana Water Resources Research Center, and all Water Centers, is to train the next generation of water scientists. This project successfully trained four undergraduate students in Dr. Bosch’s lab.


Contact Laura Esman, Managing Director, to request a printed copy of this factsheet.

195 Marsteller Street | West Lafayette, IN 47907-2033 | 765-496-3135

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