Wetland Health Study

Wawasee Watershed Ecological Health Study

A comprehensive analysis of nutrient and sediment loads 

Melinda Sweeten, Dr. Jerry Sweeten, Heather Harwood (WACF Executive Director)

Since 1991, WACF has focused on improving water quality with two primary tools: 

  • acquisition of critical properties (currently over 900 acres), and
  • mitigation projects (over 100 completed) to limit sediment containing harmful nutrients from entering our lakes by stabilizing eroding creek banks and encouraging best farming practices.

(At the bottom of the page, view a short video with a brief explanation of the landmark study).

While we have made tremendous progress, we are always seeking to direct our limited resources to priority “hot spots”. To that end, WACF funded a study by Wayne Stanger (S & L Environmental Group) in late 2017 which resulted in the identification of 29 critical hot spots. All of the recommended projects involve considerable expense, and we currently have no scientific way to prioritize them.

Beth Morris (Chairman of the WACF Ecology Committee), Dr. Jerry Sweeten

In early 2018, our Ecology Committee, led by Beth Morris and Joan Szynal MD, began discussions with Dr. Jerry Sweeten, Professor Emeritus of Environmental Studies at Manchester University and president of Ecosystems Connections Institute. Over the course of several months, they designed a robust and comprehensive study to create a legacy database that will allow us to best allocate our resources for future projects and measure long-term results.

Dr. Jerry Sweeten and his associates Melinda Sweeten and Herb Manifold

To accomplish our goals, Dr. Sweeten and his team will place five extremely sophisticated sampling gauges, one each at the five inflows (Dillon Creek, Launer Creek, Turkey Creek, Papakeechie Outflow and Martin Creek) to Lake Wawasee. (See map below) Samples will also be taken at the Syracuse Lake outflow of Turkey Creek  slightly past the Syracuse dam. Our approach is to conduct highly intensive daily sampling every four hours during those months (April-June) when agricultural production is at its greatest and 75% of the annually deposited nutrients and sediment are likely entering the watershed. Samples will be picked up daily and analyzed for phosphorus, nitrogen, suspended sediment, dissolved oxygen and many other attributes. Following this peak period, samples will be taken weekly and also after the first monthly rainfall. This data rich approach will show statistically what levels of phosphorous and nitrogen (nutrients) and sediment each tributary is contributing to our lakes.

Our testing will start in the spring of 2019 with over 2,000 samples analyzed each year. The targeted duration of the project is three years, and actionable data will become available in the first months. This scientific approach will also enhance our ability to attract government partners to participate in the funding of  major mitigation projects.

In our watershed, there has never been a study conducted, or even proposed, that is as comprehensive and sophisticated as this landmark WACF study. We feel that the study is essential to direct our resources (mitigation and land acquisition) to the most urgent problem areas.

This study is not only ambitious but also quite costly.
Please show your support with a WACF donation.

Arrows show inflow and outflow of water into Lake Wawasee and out of Syracuse Lake


For a brief explanation of the landmark study, please view this short video.