WRIR 95-4108

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Phelps, G.G., and German, E.R., 1996, Water budgets, water quality, and analysis of nutrient loading of the Winter Park Chain of Lakes, central Florida, 1989-92: Water-Resources Investigations Report 95-4108, 96 p., 4 plates.


The Winter Park chain of lakes (Lakes Maitland, Virginia, Osceola, and Mizell) has a combined area of about 900 acres, an immediate drainage area of about 3,100 acres, and mean depths ranging from 11 to 15 feet. The lakes are an important recreational resource for the surrounding communities, but there is concern about the possible effects of stormwater runoff and seepage of nutrient-enriched ground water on the quality of water in the lakes.

The lakes receive water from several sources: rainfall on lake surfaces, inflow from other surface-water bodies, stormflow that enters the lakes through storm drains or by direct runoff from land adjacent to the lakes, and ground-water seepage. Water leaves the lakes by evaporation, surface outflow, and ground-water outflow. Of the three, only surface outflow can be measured directly. Rainfall, surface inflow and outflow, and lake-stage data were collected from October 1, 1989, to September 30, 1992. Stormflow, evaporation and ground-water inflow and outflow were estimated for the 3 years of the study. Ground-water outflow was calculated by evaluating the rate of lake-stage decline during dry periods. Estimated ground-water outflow was compared to downward leakage rates estimated by ground-water flow models. Lateral ground-water inflow from surficial sediments was calculated as the residual of the flow budget.

Flow budgets were calculated for the 3 years of the study. In water year 1992 (a year with about average rainfall), inflow consisted of rainfall, 48 inches; stormflow, 15 inches; surface inflow, 67 inches; and ground water, 40 inches. The calculated outflows were evaporation, 47 inches; surface outflow, 90 inches; and ground water, 33 inches.

Water-quality data also were used to calculate nutrient budgets for the lakes. Bimonthly water samples were collected from the lakes and at surface inflow and outflow sites, and were analyzed for physical characteristics, dissolved oxygen, pH, specific conductance, major ions, the nutrients nitrogen and phosphorus, and chlorophyll (collected at lake sites only). Specific conductance ranged from about 190 to 230 microsiemens per centimeter at 25 degrees Celsius in Lakes Maitland, Virginia and Osceola and from about 226 to 260 microsiemens per centimeter at 25 degrees Celsius in Lake Mizell. The median concentrations of total ammonia-plus-organic nitrogen in all the lakes ranged from 0.79 to 0.99 milligrams per liter. Median total phosphorus concentrations ranged from less than 0.02 to 0.20 milligrams per liter. Stormwater samples were collected for 17 storms at one storm-drain site and 16 storms at another storm-drain site on Lake Osceola. Median total nitrogen concentrations at the sites were 2.23 and 3.06 milligrams per liter and median total phosphorus concentrations were 0.34 and 0.40 milligrams per liter.

The water quality in the Winter Park lakes generally is fair to good, based on a trophic-state index used by the Florida Department of Environmental Protection for assessing the tropic state of Florida lakes. This index was determined from median total nitrogen, total phosphorus, and chlorophyll-a concentrations, and median Secchi-disk transparency for all lakes for the period September 1989 to June 1992.

Based on a one-time sampling of 20 sites around the lakes, surficial ground-water quality is highly variable. Nutrient concentrations were highly variable and could not be correlated to the proximity of septic tanks. Fertilizer probably is the primary source of nutrients in the surficial ground water.

Nutrient budgets were calculated for the lakes for the 3 years of the study. The most variable source of nutrient loading to the lakes is stormwater. Nutrient-loading modeling indicates that reduction of nutrients in stormflow probably would improve lake-water quality. However, even with complete removal of nitrogen and phosphorus from stormwater, the lakes might still be mesotrophic with respect to both nutrients during periods of below average rainfall because of the input from the other sources of inflow to the lakes.

Littoral vegetation in the lakes was surveyed in March 1992. The length of shoreline containing vegetation was 44 percent in Lake Maitland, 62 percent in Lake Virginia, 46 percent in Lake Osceola, and 76 percent in Lake Mizell. The types of vegetation present generally were similar for all four lakes.

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