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[Moderated Topic] Water Chemistry


Horton
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I was talking to Will Bush yesterday about lake design and water quality. He told me that they test their water for and tweak their lake for Ph. Part of their weed control efforts is basic water chemistry.

 

Will also talked about using Aluminum Sulfate to drop solids out of the water. What the hell is Aluminum Sulfate? I am under the impression that you can very much change how a lake skis with this chem. So clearly I know nothing on the subject. Does anyone know enough to write a primer about lake chemistry and management?

 

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I do not, but you may want to get hold of a homeowner from Bell Acqua Lake 2. They had a severe water chemistry issue in 2011 (after Regionals was over, fortunately) where the lake literally became unskiable. Lake 1 was affected too, but not as bad. They were able to resolve the issue, but I don't know the details.
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Good question. One skier from our club a few years ago, who works at a local water treatment plant, took a jar of our lake water in to test. I have the results and can post if interested.

 

The turbidity is important for clarity, and the science is over my head, but this is a helpful link below and also has other measures and info as well. There is also a hardness test, which I think effects ski speed or perceived fastness of the water. We live in a hard water area, and we all have gone to places when you shower and your hair is limp and you don't feel like you rinsed the soap off, which is soft water.

 

http://ga.water.usgs.gov/edu/turbidity.html

 

 

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I forgot to add that over the last few years of using dye and lining the shores with rip rap rocks, we are seeing much clearer water. So much, in that you can see leaves or rocks along the shoreline easily 6 or more feet deep. That was not the case when we bought it 30 years ago, or even 10 years ago.
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Aluminum sulfate acts as a flocculant which causes small particles in the water to join together, then drop to the bottom, making the less turbid, or more clear. A nice look, and it may ski faster. But, it will also allow more light to reach deeper in the water and possibly aid in weed growth. If you plan to add a dye, then all may be good - nice clear, aqua color water that skis nice.

I am no expert - but have been researching some of this, particularly to learn more about the use of herbicides to clean up a weed issue I have so the lake is good next summer. Worked with UGA scientist who has been very helpful. Looking at a 1-2 punch with herbicide and grass carp.

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We use aluminium sulfate to settle water for chemical spraying, it works quick (12 hours or so) and clears the water up a hell of a lot. One problem that may arise is that you could get a really sticky film of weird mud on the waters bottom, depending how dirty the water is to start off with. Another alternative is gypsum (calcium sulfate dihydrate). We used to put it in house dams to settle the water. Worked reasonably well although you would need a fair bit more (it is much cheaper though)
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@Bruce_Butterfield There are a number stories about lakes that suddenly ski like crap because if something chemical. BellAqua II was really weird for regionals a few years ago. I am sure you heard the stories about the Ski Ranch last year. I guess a site in NorCal got so wacky this summer that no one could run a pass.
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Horton, sorry I missed those stories, but if no one can run a pass, there is something else going on besides the water. If you could get calm water on the pacific and put in a course, any skier could run within a pass of normal on saltwater. I have a hard time believing any man-made ski lake is "literally unskiable" .

 

Then again, 90% of the game is half mental.

If it was easy, they would call it Wakeboarding

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Skied a lake in Central California twice this summer. The first time, in May, the lake skied great. I went back in September and I felt like I couldn't even pull out for the gates correctly. I had noticed a green "tint" to the water before I skied that hadn't been there the time prior, and the lake's owner stated he had quit putting dye in several weeks earlier. I was able to run passes, but the pull out and the turn in for the gate were so uncomfortable, that I could never get settled in. It felt as if the ski was very resistant to grabbing an edge and I would end up making exaggerated movements of my upper body to get going. I ski on a dozen or more sites a year, and this was completely unique.
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I know of one lake with great results using alum. @AB, @zman and @lucas summed it up.

 

@AB nice to hear you got a clairty improvement with riprap and dye. I am working on our lake and hope to see the same. May try alum as well but starting with weed control and shoreline improvements first.

 

I have a degree in chemistry and never expected this stuff to make a noticeable difference I the way a lake skis. It can. I can confirm BA was crazy weird and Coyote had a similar streak this summer.

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For years I have been trying to figure out why our lake skis so differently than the other lakes nearby, our lake is much clearer and I think this may be a factor.

 

We also had a period a couple of years ago where our lake was "unskiable" and it seemed to be some kind of algae issue, we treated with Cutrine and it helped. There have been similar problems at other lakes when Perfect Pass was still being used and settings had to be changed to accommodate the change in water and had to be adjusted again when the water returned to normal.

 

It would be great to get some scientific data on this!

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@Bruce_Butterfield I know it sounds crazy, but its true. Let me give you my own personal story, in Cliff Notes:

 

1. Return from 2011 World Championships in Russia....I was skiing really good at the time.

2. Drive straight to Bell Aqua from Airport

3. 1st pass: inside buoy 2 at 13m

4. 2nd pass: inside buoy 3 at 13m

5. 3rd pass: fall at 4

6. Get on swim platform and check ski, bindings, fin, head, driver, Z Off, Horoscope, etc...

7. Miss 13m 2 more times

8. Give up.

 

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This is a great grad student chemistry project in the making... Premise: Solicit water samples from competition sites. Each sample has to be collected following consistent rules and using some form of sterile, sufficient container. Each sample should also include a completed survey asking about various water ammendments and dates used over the past 12 months or so. The survey should include demographic data on the lakes like size depth, basic shape, etc. The survey should also include subjective ratings of ski ability attributes, like on a scale of 1 to 10, does your site typically ski fast? Same for slow, and any other descriptive ski ability attributes we can think of. Then, run the chemistry tests. Look for any correlations between chemistry and ski ability attributes. Then publish your findings in an eBook that you sell for a small fee. Start up a water testing service for ski sites and continue to collect data with each customer. Improve your correlation findings to the point of predictive ski ability based solely on water chemistry and to the point of providing corrective chemical prescriptions for lakes.
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Earlier in the year I was victim to unskiable water at a notable site where numerous world records were held. 4 people couldn't get past 2 ball on their opening pass. They had dumped 700% of the dye that was required as well as gypsum into the lake. It took until the end of the summer for the water to return to normal.

 

That said, we've used aluminum sulfate and gypsum at different times at our lake. The AS drops the particulate out immediately. But we'd go broke buying it because of the amount needed. A few years later we had 30 cubic yard of gypsum brought in, which we spread over the water. It didn't have the immediate effect that the AS did, but the next day we had the particulate measured and it had dropped by 70%. We went from 3 inch visibility to 18 inch visibility. Cost of the gypsum was around $1500 for the truck load.

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@Bruce_Butterfield is right - but then he's always right. No water is unskiable. Well, @Horton 's lake is unskiable right now. As is @AKShortline 's frozen lake. Oh, there have been times when my pondweed was so bad the prop would load up to make the boat not go. But unskiable water is a myth. Is ZO still unskiable?

 

I avoid aluminum sulfate. Turbidity is my friend to reduce pondweed. If the sunlight can't penetrate to the pondweed, it won't grow. @ShaneH why would you want your visibility to go from 3inch to 18 inch visibility? Now you have to add a bunch of dye to reduce the visibility artificially.

 

Gypsum is used on farm fields around me to improve the water percolation out of the soil. Unless you have too much water, why would you put gypsum in your lake and increase the amount of water leaking out? To clear it up and add more dye? Gypsum may be the worst thing to put in a lake.

 

Horton may be in for a surprise with his newly deep lake. The boats will not stir up the clay from the bottom and weeds may become an issue. As boat judge at Paradise next door, I offered a weed reride despite the excessive blue in the water. Don't scrimp on the dye. Or fill with green Ironwood water.

 

Eric

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@Horton I do not claim to know to much about treating lakes; however, when a lake owner put in copper sulfate to get ride of algae the water felt sticky. I believe copper sulfate depletes the oxygen in the water, I even noticed the boat/prop wash had less froth. You might want to speak to Bill from Banana Lakes for some info if you have not already.
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@ShaneH Aesthetics are nice but weeds are awful. And what works for a golf course may not be cost effective for a ski lake. I would love chocolate milk water in any of my lakes. The weeds are a true threat to skiing. As is percolating the expensive water out of my lakes. Proceed very carefully with gypsum and alum. Dye and grass carp are safe.

 

Visit Tahoe if you want clear water - but the skiing sucks. Go to Ironwood (the dirtiest murkiest water around) if you want good conditions.

 

@dbressel I have used copper sulfate in the past. I used a judicious small amount but noticed no difference in skiing feel either immediately or after the pondweed died. I claim myth.

 

Eric

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I think @dbressel and I were thinking alike as I was reading down this thread. I wonder what the oxygen content was in the lakes that became difficult to ski in? ( I didn't say unskiable).

 

We have nearby lime quarries, so we have thought the water spot issue we have is related, so we wipe boats down as soon as they are out of the water. Also thought this is what made our water feel "fast" compared to other lakes, but everyone says our water feels "good" now, comparable to Pelican, which is a well known Midwest site that skis great. I have no clue what slowed our water down and cleared it up, we were just trying to get rid of filmentos moss algae blooms from fertilizer run off.

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We don't have weed issues. So it's not an issue. And with clay bottom and high water table, that's not an issue either. A little dye here and there and all is well. Everyone who skis our sight asks us to hold records because it skis so well. What works for some, doesn't work for all. We did PLENTY of research prior to anything we did.
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In California, we never have too much water. Our sea level isn't even rising with the global warming.

 

When my fish operations slowed down, my water went from pea soup green to clear. Several years of no pondweed. The first time the water cleared up I got choked with pondweed.

 

@ShaneH Past history of no problems does not guarantee things going smoothly forever. But you are totally right, "What works for some, doesn't work for all." Good luck.

 

I do like chocolate milk though. Kirk wants me to dye my lake Grateful Dead purple.

 

Eric

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Something to make the bottom percolate???? Something to increase leaking??? You gotta be kidding me!!!! Gimme a break!

 

Will install a lab to inspect all gear coming from the USA to make sure none of it get into my lake.

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My beginners 2 cents, I skied at a sight 2 summers ago farther north than my current sight, that had what I believe to be a clay type bottom, because I had to clean the clay off my ski, and the lake had a chocolate milk type look. When I started to ski on my current clearer water ski club sight, my perception was that the chocolate milk type water ski sight was easier for me to make passes on.
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There are two sites in my area that have very different water. One seems fast = earlier, easier, wider across the wake. The other seems slow = tighter line out of the buoy, easier to slow down if too hot into the buoy. The opposites are true for each site - Fast water means more work to slow down, Slow water means more work to get speed/width.
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@Horton Welcome to the land of waterski lake ownership=lake water quality managment! We have had great success with Alum, it is not for all... but really turned our water quality and clarity around. We actually now inject Alum whenever we add fill water to the lake...let me just remind everyone that if you manage the Ph, you then auomatically manage weeds and alge by creating an unfavorable environment for their growth. It comes down to how you want to manage the weeds/alge herbisides work well too! We have fish that we did not want to kill, so we searched for a fish friendly product. Alum's long term and best data can be found for its use in the Florida Everglades vernal pool management...anyone interested in our experience reach out anytime...as the other Norcal lake owners have.
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When we first acquired our site, it was very clear (visibility 6-8 feet). At that time, it seemed to ski very fast - hard to slow down and very challenging. Over time, we have stocked several species of fish and gone through a series of steps to control weeds, including grass carp.

 

The visibility is now about +/- 1 foot. In my opinion, the lake skis much easier with the suspended organics. The feeling is slower, with the ability for the ski to sink in and hold better angle. No science to back it up, but the difference is obvious.

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I have no chemistry input, but I have to say, that was a very interesting read. As a guy that only skis in a single location, I have never thought about how the water chemistry might change how it feels to ski. Unfortunately, I think all my issues still have to do with the fact that I am not a very good skier....
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I grew up on a lake that was clear enough to see the fish as they mocked me from 30 feet below the surface but there was never a weed problem - not even in the shallow areas. Why would that be? For that matter why do gravel pits always seem to have crystal clear water and no weeds? Are weeds a result of being too close to ag land & fertilizer runoff?

 

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Algae is the main issue with fertilizer runoff. It probably improves weed growth if there are weeds present.

All ponds are shallow near the shorelines, so all would have weeds if it was just a depth issue.

Weeds are geographical concerns in my opinion. Waterfowl transplant them, along with trailers and boats.

 

I ski in 3 lakes, all 10' deep or more, and one has a weed problem. It Is also the lake that doesn't add dye.

 

Our lake is bordered by farmland, and it is the lake with algae issues if dye wasn't used.

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Phosphates, by products of many things, dead leaves, fertilizer use, ect concentrate in the lake water over time creating a perfect "stew" that algae and weeds love. Key is to reduce phosphates creating an unhappy environment for growth of either. Most of the time cure options seem to be cost related...now that we have treated with Alum lowered the"stew" levels, we spend less on dye and algaecides. We are motivated by wanting to have a clear looking clean lake without having to battle weeds and algae, now we have that! It just took 17 years to get there LOL!!!!
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I hate to throw this out there but ….

 

When I was a kid there was no such thing as dye. We actually fertilized the lake a little to get an algae bloom. I do not remember it ever being stinky or chunky except maybe one week every other year. The lake always had an olive tint and was generally weed free.

 

No one would do something this wacky today but I have to say that to this day my dad does not generally put dye in Horton Lake. The lake is way too shallow for my tastes which should mean the weeds would be worse. Somehow it works.

 

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@Horton, see page 10 about fertilizer needed to control weed growth. We added dye because of algae. It looks nice too, but some say it keeps the temp down a little. I will make the trade off on a few degrees vs no gradu floating around every time.

 

 

http://www.ksuaquaculture.org/Pubs.htm/Aquatic%20Weed%20Control%20in%20Ponds%207-3-07.pdf

 

 

 

 

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Alum, aluminum sulfate, Al2(SO4)3 , is a cationic coagulant which provides a cationic (+) charge to the water. When sufficient amount is added, which can be as little as 250 ppm or up to 1500 ppm, the "iso-electric" point is achieved and solids begin to precipitate. The solids drop to the lake bottom (containing aluminum) and accumulate. The sludge generated is a very light, not easily settled precipitate. Typically when used in drinking water clarification, a flocculant is used to enhance settling. Not a good idea in a lake! There are many factors that affect the "surface tension" of the water; total dissolved solids, total suspended solids, alkalinity, temperature and pH. It is the surface tension difference from lake to lake (in addition to depth) that skiers feel.

Alum is bring used for side stream phosphate removal in Lake Apopka in Florida. The down side is now you have sludge laden with aluminum and phosphate which must be dewatered and trucked out. The dried sludge has tons of phosphate and aluminum that goes to land fill.

Will Alum clarify water? Yes. However, in a "land locked" , non-flowing lake, the sludge accumulates on the lake bed. It may over time become more dense and compact, but it is sludge non the less.

At 1500 ppm dosage, in a million gallons, you would have to add 12, 510 lbs!

 

Hope this helps.

 

MWN

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