Water Quality Research Project

Bad Medicine Research Project

September 2021

Professor Rick Koch, Bemidji State University Aquatic Department, hosted a Zoom presentation on the current status of the Bad Medicine Lake water quality study on Saturday, September 25, 2021.

Link to Richard Koch’s Presentation

Spring 2018 – Steve Lindow

Rick Koch, Bemidji State University Aquatic Department, will be giving a presentation at the annual BMLAA June 23rdon their 2017 findings. The project is a cooperative effort initiated by the Bad Medicine Lake Area Association and funded by tax-deductible donations through the Bad Medicine Lake Area Foundation and the West Central Initiative. After the annual meeting, the Foundation will host a couple of informational meetings for people to hear and ask questions about the project. So far donations are covering the first two years and part of the third. You will find a copy of the pledge card in this newsletter to use to help cover the costs of the last part of the third year. Thank you to those that have donated and will be donating again, if you have not donated yet, please consider helping out with this effort to help keep your lake clear and property values up.

The first year findings will establish a base line to detect any changes over the next two years of research sampling. For 2018, the team collected their first samples soon after ice out on May 3rd. They have done three additional samplings since then.

Rick has hired a grad student to take over the project for the next two years. The student will be responsible for collecting and analyzing the data and writing the final report spring 2020.

Bad Medicine water quality can change very quickly due to the unique chemical and biological make up of the water. Early detection of changes can be evaluated and used to identify actions that may be needed to maintain the high water quality into the future. Changes in water quality usually start to happen under the water surface before we can observe them on the surface. Scuba divers, fisherman and residents have reported seeing more green filamentous algae and more crusty, scale like stuff growing on the metal framing of docks and boatlifts. Both observations suggest something in the water is changing.

The bi-monthly water samples are taken at three different locations and at three different levels within the water column to look at not only phosphorus concentrations but to collect different species of algae and zooplankton. The interaction of these organisms via the food chain is a big part of what determines overall water quality. For example, high populations of blue-green algae can lead to summer algae blooms and less water clarity. Excessive phosphorus collected in the bottom sediments that isn’t measured in surface samples could encourage algae growth that residents are beginning to see.

Also, from the water samples, researchers will analyze water calcium (hardness) concentrations and pH (acidity) to see if these parameters are impacting water clarity.

Last year (2017), the DNR did their five-year net lake survey. The lake survey indicated walleye and perch numbers are still low. Maybe the research project can help explain the low numbers.

The pristine water of Bad Medicine is why most of us chose to own property on the lake. Maintaining the water quality is important for the aesthetic value and for property values.

The research project could be compared to an insurance policy as a means of trying to protect us from a future problem.

Determining how all these pieces fit together is important to understanding what makes Bad Medicine Lake water so pristine. Identifying problems and trends early, can help us make informed decisions on how to correct problems to maintain the future water quality where we live and play.