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ENSTU 300: Critical Thinking & Communication in Environmental Studies

Environmental Issues of Man-Made


Lakes
Jack Martin, Environmental Studies Technology and Policy, California State
University Monterey Bay

https://www.seemonterey.com/listings
Introduction
/el-estero-park/1680/

In the article Man-Made Lakes and Man-Made Diseases John Hunter et.al. explains
how stagnant water without any flow leads to higher levels of diseases in humans around the
area (Hunter et.al. 1982). For the surrounding community this is a tangible problem and should
be looked at as a very serious issue. One of these problem lakes is Lake El Estero in
Monterey. Lake El Estero was converted from a lake that flowed into the ocean and had brackish
water in it to a lake that was cut off from the ocean. It is a manmade lake now but it used to be
free flowing. The term manmade applies here because it acts as a manmade lake since the
community chose to cut it off from the ocean stopping the flow of the water.
Imagine going for a walk in the local park and coming across a body of water. You stop
to eat lunch and spill some ketchup on your hands. You decide that you will just wash the mess
off with the water from the lake and go on with your day. A week goes by and you wake up with
a finger thats swollen and red. The doctor tells you that your finger is infected and that it is
from the bacteria in the lake getting into a cut. Obviously this is a fictional story but things like
this do happen and it is just one of the many environmental and safety issues associated with
man-made lakes.
The environmental problem that will be researched is the water quality issues that come
with manmade lakes in California specifically. The problem is that the water in these lakes do
not have flow since they are man-made thus leaving water stagnant leading to environmental
issues. The main causes of water quality issues in manmade lakes are the lack of water flow out
of the lake and the pollutants and chemicals that either runoff into the lake or are intentionally
dumped there. With these issues come the effects which are high turbidity and low dissolved
oxygen. High turbidity is when sediment is suspended throughout the water column which in
turn does not allow sunlight to penetrate the water. With no sunlight reaching the bed of the lake
no aquatic plants can grow. This mixed with lack of water flow causes low oxygen levels
making aquatic life nonexistent. If nothing is done to mitigate these problems these lakes will
turn into sitting cesspools that exponentially get worse especially with no human intervention.
The approach that will be taken to manage these water quality issues will be to filter this water
through water quality plants and then either return it to the lake or sell the water to local farmers.

The normative statement that will be addressed and analyzed is that all manmade lakes
should have some form of aeration to prevent stagnant water and polluted runoff. The approach
that will be taken to addressing the problem is to research man-made lakes in California and see
which of them have the most problems with high turbidity and low dissolved oxygen. I will also
look at manmade lakes that have low turbidity and high dissolved oxygen and see how they have
maintained a healthy lake. This approach is important to addressing the problem because you
can compare what works and what does not work with maintaining these lakes. A few of the
stakeholders that will be discusses are the people of the community and also the scientific experts
who maintain the lakes.

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Background

History
In 1847 a
railway was built and
cut Lake El Estero off
permanently from the
ocean. It was
previously a marine
estuary that was filled
with brackish water
which is a mix of salt
and fresh. When it was
cut off from the ocean it
created a problem with the flow of the water and created a stagnant body of water. On top of this
because the area has grown into such an agricultural hotbed in the last century the nitrogen from
the fertilizer used in agricultural crops runs off into the lake and causes major algal blooms and
other water quality issues. The runoff accumulates when it rains and whatever is washed off of
the crops is then taken with the runoff water to the nearest body of water.
The lake is also home to a host of recreational activities. There is a baseball field that is
utilized by the community and also a playground and skate park for teenagers. Some of these
recreational activities actually cause some problems with the lake and will be discussed. The
park plays a major role in the community and tourists flock to see the beautiful ocean side views.
The park is also home to businesses that rent out paddle boats to explore the lake and its
environment. All of these pieces come together to make a tight knit community that is Lake El
Estero and this is what makes it such a major part of such an upcoming community.

Scientific Background
There are a few key problems to look out for when talking about water quality and specifically a
stagnant body of water. The first problem and most serious when dealing with man-made lakes is the

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issue of the water being stagnant. Natural bodies of water have flow systems because they are either
connected to an input of water that is forcing water through or there is an output that is pulling water out.
In man-made lakes there are inputs but only that of runoff. There is no natural supplier of water for these
retention ponds. The issue with stagnant water is that it is a perfect breeding ground for mosquitoes. In
my interview with Professor John Silveus of California State University Monterey Bay, he explained to
me a little about the science behind it. He talked about how mosquitoes were a huge issue in a lot of
man-made lakes and that most of the time the water will already be low in dissolved oxygen and warm
which is perfect for mosquitoes to breed in.

Another problem that a lot of man-made lakes face especially in areas of agriculture is the issue
of algal blooms. The pesticides from the farms get washed away when it rains and these pesticides and
other chemicals are taken to the nearest body of water and dumped. The issue here is that when the
pesticides and fertilizers come into contact with the aquatic plants they react the same way that normal
plants would and they grow at an alarming rate. This creates a blanket of algae that blocks the sunlight
from coming into
the water thus
killing off any
other aquatic life.
This can also lead
to an issue with
an abundance of
sediment.

In Almo
Cordone and
Don Kelleys
book The
Influences of Inorganic Sediment on the Aquatic Life of Streams they explain that when
sediment is introduced into the water it appears that coating of gills by silt impairs the functions
of circulation, respiration, excretion, and probably salt balance(Cordone 192). The sediment
that is introduced into the water blocks sunlight as well which does not allow aquatic plants to
grow. This in turn depletes the oxygen in the water because the plants cannot go through
photosynthesis to create any.

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Another scary scenario is that in some man-made lakes the water comes into contact with
the groundwater. In an interview with Greg Scarpone who is the Vice President of
Environmental Services for the company IWM or Indiana Waste Management and Consulting,
he explained to me what would happen to the affected body of water if it is left alone to sit. If
the water is contaminated and left to sit in the lake, it is possible to have contact that will seep
into the groundwater and leach into it. He also explained to me that something as simple as
adding an oxygen bubbling system or even a fountain can help to oxygenate the lake and move it
around.

Policy Context

The first piece of legislation that has an effect on the quality of the water and how it is
managed is the Clean Water which was passed while under President Nixon in 1972 (EPA 1972).
The organization that oversees the CWA and monitors the bodies of water is the Environmental
Protection Agency. What the CWA did was make it unlawful to discharge any pollutant from a
point source into navigable waters (Summary of the Clean Water Act). This may seem like
commonplace but before the act was put into place there were no regulations to who could dump
chemicals or pollutants into the waterways. This has to do with manmade lakes in California
because the water quality is monitored periodically and it must meet the regulations to remain a
recreational lake. It also means that the pollution that was once legal to dump into the lake is no
longer legal practices. These pollutants are not only a harm to the local wildlife but also to
anyone in contact with the lake. In the future these policies may need to be revised with the
increasing amounts of food production in the United States and especially in California. This
will bring an increase in the number of pesticides used and therefore more pollution in the runoff.

The second piece of legislation that is relevant to Lake El Estero is Section 404 of the Clean
Water Act of 1972 (EPA 1972). This legislation stopped the dumping of dredged materials into
the waterways of the United States(epa.gov). This piece of legislature allowed the manmade
lakes of California remain clean and free of dredged or fill material. This in turn keeps the
turbidity of the lakes lower and allows more sunlight to reach the aquatic plants and keeping the

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ecosystem healthy. This has been a huge help to Lake El Estero since there is no natural flow to
the body of water so if the turbidity was elevated it would only make the problems worse.

The third piece of legislation deals with the City of Monterey and their water regulations.
Section 23-22 to section 23-25 of the city of Monterey code states that no one may Swim,
partake in fishing of any kind, or boat on lake El Estero unless they are boats provided by the
Citys concessionaire (City of Monterey Code).

Stakeholder Perspectives

The first stakeholder is the community around the lake. With the lake having hazardous
levels of pollutants and chemicals the people of the community cannot partake in the recreational
activities that they otherwise would have been able to partake in. The interest of this stakeholder
is the betterment of the area around the lake and also the betterment of the environment. They
live in the area so the lake being in good condition is a positive for them. They are more
community based rather than the farmers who are more self focused. The opposition to this
stakeholder is the farming and industrial communities around the lake. If it is decided that levels
of pollutants that are allowed to be integrated into the water need to be less, the farmers and the
factories will have to spend money to lower their output levels. This could be a large investment
and could be a big blow to the industry. The interest of these stakeholders is to keep costs down
and therefore profits high. They care about the environment in a different way than a community
member would because the community member sees the local area as a home where their family
is while a farmer may see the land as something that makes him profit. This is a problem is
communities that have a large farming output and the clash between profitability and
comfortably living is a battle that will wage on given the growing number of humans on Earth.

The next stakeholder is the kiosk where they rent out recreational pedal boats for use on
the lake. For this stakeholder I was thinking of Lake El Estero and more research would be
needed to know if there are boat rentals on the other manmade lakes. If the lake reaches unsafe
levels of pollutants to the point where the recreational use no longer is healthy, the company that
rents out these boats will no longer have business on the lake and will lose money. This
stakeholder again has the interests of money and profit on their mind but also needs the lake to be

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healthy to stay in business. This is an interesting stakeholder because they have no ties to the
environmental stewardship of the lake but at the same time if the lake gets to an unhealthy point
where they can no longer have people going out in boats then they will no longer be able to be on
Lake El Estero.

Stakeholder group Impact What does the How can the What are the
and representatives stakeholder value stakeholder concerns of the
about the project? contribute to the stakeholder?
project?
Community Large Cleaner Talk to their local The health of the
Members community and government or environment that
environment hold action they live in.
meetings
Farmers Medium Cleaner Reduce the amount Having to change
environment of pesticides that their practices to
makes it easier to they use for their meet laws or
grow crops crops standards
Businesses that Small Cleans up the lake Promote keeping Having the lake be
profit off of lake that they profit off the lake clean to too contaminated
recreation of the people who use and not being able
the paddle boats to rent out boats
thus not making
money

Discussion

There are three options that seem feasible to be answers to the normative question that is
presented. The first option is to treat the water and then reuse it to irrigate crops in the local area. The
next option is a no action plan and that would do exactly what it sounds like. With the no action plan the
idea is to see if the lake can return to full health on its own and hopefully not have to spend money to fix
it. The last option is to treat the water and return it to the lake.

Criteria Option 1-Treat and reuse Option 2- No action. Option 3- Treat the water and
Keep pumping out to return it to the lake.
ocean.

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Health Would be good for the Would remain the same. Would increase the health of
health of the community The health is not a huge the lake and the community
and the water issues that problem in most especially in the case of El
are in El Estero would be manmade lakes but in Estero.
solved. some the quality is very
poor.

Water Would significantly Would be the same as it In the long run would conserve
conservation decrease the amount of is currently. It is not water but minimal amounts. If
water that is used to being wasteful but the the quality of the water is
irrigate the crops. water could be used for higher you can keep it in the
other reasons. lake longer.

Environmental Would be good for the For the lakes that have Would increase the
Sustainability environment because the water quality issues this sustainability in the lakes that
water gets treated and is would only further those had water quality issues. Water
constantly moving in and problems. The stagnant would be treated and returned
out of the lake causing water is very bad for not clean and healthy.
flow. only the water but also
the areas around it due to
mosquitoes and other
pests.

Cost Would incur all the Would be the cheapest of Would be the priciest of the
expenses at the beginning the options. No action options. Would have to pay to
stages. Once the water taken means no money transport the water and then
was paid to be transported spent. pay to have it treated. Instead
and treated the city could of making money by selling the
then sell it to local farmers water to farmers it would then
and make the money they have to be paid for to transport
spent to treat it back. it back to the lake and put it

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back in the lake.

The first option is to treat the water at a plant and then use said gray water to sell to
local farmers to irrigate their crops. The strengths of this proposal are that it kills two birds with
one stone. Not only would it clean up the water but it would also make money for the
surrounding area after the water was sold to farmers. This plan would delight the community
because they are getting their lake cleaned up and also there is a profit that may see its way back
into the area. The only downfall of this option is that these lakes may not have enough time to
recharge. It could end up that they take so much water from the lake that it cannot sustain itself.
If this option were to be selected a law would need to be put into place to say how much water
was allowed to be treated and sold.
The second option is a no action plan. This plan would do exactly as it sounds and the
lake would be left alone to its own devices. The major strength of this plan is that the city saves
tons of money not having to transport the water and pay for it to be cleaned. This is really the
only strength that this plan has. The weaknesses for this plan are that the water remains at
unhealthy levels putting health and safety of the community at risk. Another weakness of this
plan is that the current way of dealing with the polluted water is to pump it out past the break
zone. This is a major concern of the community because anyone who is in contact with the
ocean may come into contact with the contaminated polluted water. Not only does this
encompass the people who go to the beach for recreational activities but also anyone who eats
seafood because that fish may have been exposed to high levels of pollution.
The third option is to treat the water and have it returned to the lake. The strengths of this
plan are highlighted by the fact that the water is getting healthier. The water would be
transported to the treatment facility where all of the harmful chemicals and bacteria would be
extracted and the water would then be transported back and dumped into the lake. The treatment

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itself would help vastly but also something as simple as just taking the water in and out of the
lake would increase health. The increased water movement would add some flow to the lake
effectively making it a non habitat for mosquitoes and their larvae. The weakness of this plan is
that it is costly with no financial return. The water would have to be paid to be transported to the
facility and then paid for to be treated and ultimately paid for again to be transported back. This
operation would come directly from the community members pockets in tax money so it may be
received with some criticism.
Recommendation
While options two and three provide solid positive outcomes the weaknesses of them
seem to overcome the positives. While option two (no option plan) without a doubt would save
the community a large sum of money it would not address the overall issue that is presented. It
would save the community money but the environmental wellness of the lake would go down the
drain. If not treated the problem will get worse and there is no question about that. The increase
in agriculture in the area along with the increase in necessity of food is going to continue to be a
problem. This will force the farmers to have to increase output and with land availability
dwindling they may have to look towards pesticides to increase production. With land scarcity
also becoming an issue the farms of the future are going to have to be closer to suburban areas
like these parks or neighborhoods. This will open the door for much more runoff pollution
because of the closer proximity. Option number three (treat and return) is also a good option but
not quite the best. To treat the water from the lake it would cost the community money. The
water would be clean and the environment would be healthier which is the goal but it would be
an expensive means to the end. It could be received poorly by members of the community who
do not wish or care to see the lakes health increase. It also could be looked at poorly by
members of the community who do not live near the lake but are still inside the taxpaying
jurisdiction. Overall the best option for the largest number of stakeholders is the plan to treat the
water and then sell it to local farms to irrigate crops. This would not only clean the water and
inevitably the environment up but the original cost of the treatment would be subsidized by the
sale of the water to farmers. This plan would stimulate local economy while also rebuilding
natural ecosystems and keeping the recreation on these lakes alive. There really is not a negative
to this plan and it is the standout best option to clean up the environment of and around these

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man-made lakes. As stated earlier the only possible downside of this is that the lake would have
to be monitored to make sure enough water stays in it to be sustained. This plan is a no brainer
and would be a great move to start and maintain a sustainable ecosystem for the community for
years to come.
Conclusion
All in all the problems that are associated with man-made lakes are going to continue to
be a problem until we as a whole can figure out ways to remediate it. The recommendation is
one that fully fulfils the normative statement and is the one that positively affects the most
stakeholders. Environmental problems are going to keep being problems with man-made lakes
but this plan to treat the water and sell it would benefit the community tenfold. They get to clean
up both the community and the watershed while also making money doing it. It is the true
definition of a win-win scenario for all parties involved and hopefully it will get the ball rolling
to begin this type of work in all man-made lakes.

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References Cited

Clean Water Act. (n.d.). Retrieved October 18, 2017, from https://www.epa.gov/
Cordone.A. Kelley.D. The Influence of Inorganic Sediment on the Aquatic Life of Streams.
Retrieved from http://www.nativefishlab.net/library/textpdf/17590.pdf
El Estero Park. Visit Monterey, www.seemonterey.com/listings/el-estero-park/1680/.
Hunter.J. Rey.L. Scott. D. Man-Made Lakes and Man-Made Diseases.
Retrieved from https://s3.amazonaws.com/academia.edu.documents/46843241/0277-
9536_2882_2990115-020160627-9587-
6r711q.pdf?AWSAccessKeyId=AKIAIWOWYYGZ2Y53UL3A&Expires=1508368374
&Signature=1MR3jZxh2laMag%2BwYY5Noy9edSg%3D&response-content-
disposition=inline%3B%20filename%3DMan-made_lakes_and_man-made_diseases.pdf
Increasing Toxicity of Algal Blooms Tied to Nutrient Enrichment and Climate
Change.Phys.org - News and Articles on Science and Technology, phys.org/news/2013-
10-toxicity-algal-blooms-tied-nutrient.html.
Monterey City Code. (n.d.). Retrieved October 18, 2017, from
http://www.codepublishing.com/CA/Monterey/
Silveus, J. (2017, November 9). Personal Interview.

Scarpone, G. (2017, October 30). Telephone Interview.

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