Loweswater Care Programme, or LCP as it is known, covers the work being done on Loweswater lake to understand and improve the water quality. The project, in various forms, has been running since 2004 and there is much information on the project history, data and publications here.

Improving water quality in Loweswater” is the title of our current project which is supported by DEFRA’s Catchment Restoration Fund (CRF). The CRF is aimed at helping communities and local organisations improve the quality of local rivers and lakes over the period 2012-15. Of the £28M fund, West Cumbria Rivers Trust was successful in obtaining a grant (about £275k, excluding VAT) for a project aiming to tackle the problem of excessive algal growth, particularly of the potentially toxic blue-green algae (otherwise known as cyanobacteria).

This problem in Loweswater has been studied quite extensively over the last 14 years or so, but this will be the first work to try to do something practical to control it. The algal growth is critically dependent on the levels of phosphorus compounds entering the lake and much is known about this from previous work.

The project has three principal strands of work over the period October 2012 to March 2015:

1. Prevention at source through reducing phosphorus inputs to Loweswater by:

  • Improved farming and land management practices in relation to fertiliser application, disposal of farmyard wastes and septic tank discharges and minimising their direct ingress to streams and the lake;
  • Obtain a better understanding of phosphorus contributions from waterfowl.
  • Restoration of certain man-made features (eg valley mires) to enhance the capture and retention of sediment-bound phosphorus from stream; and
  • Sampling and analysis of lake sediments so that we can, for the first time, estimate the contribution to phosphorus loads from the annual recycling of sediments;

2. Apply the following methods to reduce algal populations, particularly of cyanobacteria:

  • Install floating ultrasonic generators in the lake. Cyanobacteria, more so than green algae, are sensitive to certain ultrasound frequencies, which cause the living cells to implode and die. This technique is complimentary to those above as its efficacy is not dependent on the source of phosphorus nutrients; and
  • Install floating mixers in the lake. This will stop stratification of the lake during summer months and, on the premise that the sediments are a significant source of phosphorus compounds, thereby prevent the occurrence of conditions at the bottom of the lake that allow phosphorus compounds to be recycled.

3. A monitoring programme, which will provide continued tracking of the lake quality against historic trends and allow the impact of the above measures to be accurately gauged:

  • Assessment of the water chemistry of the lake and its main inflow and outflow through monthly sampling by the Environment Agency; and
  • Assessment of algal population and species counts on a monthly basis by local resident and amateur algologist, Andrew Shaw.

Most of the project grant is for work carried out by various contractors plus the purchase of equipment. However, there is a considerable amount of work involved in managing the various elements of the work programme and disseminating information on progress and we have appointed a Project Officer, Vikki Salas, to oversee this work. There is a good deal of volunteer input from WCRT Trustees and local residents plus stakeholder organisations, which continues the strong collaborative ethic established in the former Loweswater Care Project run by Lancaster University with the Centre for Ecology and Hydrology

We hold regular local meetings to keep everyone informed of progress and provide opportunities for local people to get involved where this is practicable. Summaries and information on the local meetings, held at Loweswater Village Hall can be found here. Anyone who wants to be put on our mailing list for information and meetings, please contact the CRF Project Officer, Vikki Salas.

Information about our work we are undertaking on the ground to improve the water quality can be found here and live lake data from our monitoring equipment on the lake can be seen here.

The LCP Project Management Committee comprises:

Leslie Webb, local resident, WCRT Director and Trustee (Chairman)
Mark Astley, local resident and National Trust Ranger
Ken Bell, local farmer
Charlie Bradshaw, Environment Agency
David Calvert, WCRT Director and Trustee
Ian Creighton, WCRT Project Manager
Vikki Salas, WCRT CRF Project Officer
Andrew Shaw, local resident