Lakes have a lot to offer—stunning beauty, an array of recreational opportunities and rich, vibrant habitat for fish and wildlife. They are part of what makes our County a great place to live, work and raise a family.
Pierce County is home to over 180 named lakes, ponds and reservoirs. On the surface, many of these appear to be the same. But our diverse landscapes and geology mean that no two lakes are alike. Each has different features—temperature, shape, depth and chemistry—that determine how the lake will function. Each can be thought of as its own system of inputs and outputs.
When things are in balance, the lake is healthy and vibrant. When they are not, water quality and lake habitat often suffer. Lakes age naturally, changing conditions over time. But human activities can speed that process and cause rapid changes that harm lake health. Monitoring lake water quality helps alert us when things are out of balance, and can help drive management actions to restore lake health.
There are a lot of lakes in unincorporated Pierce County. We rely on partners like the Pierce Conservation District and the Tacoma-Pierce County Health Department to monitor lakes that people use most often. Current lake monitoring programs include:
Toxic Algae Monitoring
Also known as cyanobacteria, blue-green algae, and harmful algal blooms (HABs), toxic algae are an aquatic organism that can make people and pets very sick. Tacoma-Pierce County Health Department actively monitors 11 heavily-used lakes for algae blooms and issues advisories when conditions are not safe. They also work with a network of AlgaeWatch volunteers, who alert the Health Department to potential algae blooms at many more lakes throughout the County. The Washington State Department of Health also offers educational material and testing resources to monitor toxic algae blooms.
Check out the following links to learn more:
Certain bacteria like E. coli can cause illness if ingested. In the past, Tacoma-Pierce County Health Department routinely monitored bacteria levels near popular swimming beaches at several Pierce County Lakes. Due to funding concerns, this program has been scaled back. Currently, only select swimming beaches at Lake Tapps and Spanaway Lake are monitored unless there are reports of illness.
You can learn more by visiting:
Swimmer's Itch Monitoring
Swimmer’s Itch is caused by an allergic reaction to certain parasites found in water. While not common in Pierce County, Tacoma-Pierce County Health Department does respond to reports of Swimmers Itch by posting advisories at affected lakes.
Learn more by reading the Health Department’s Swimmer’s Itch Brochure
Volunteer Lake Water Quality Monitoring
Pierce Conservation District offers monitoring equipment and technical support to volunteers interested in monitoring lake water quality. The focus is on conventional parameters like temperature, pH, clarity, and nutrient levels. They currently have volunteers working in 7 different lakes near the cities of Lakewood, Milton and Bonney Lake. The Conservation District shares this data to support lake management decisions and also publishes annual data reports.
To find out more, visit Pierce Conservation Districts’ Lake Monitoring Page
- Pierce County Stream Water Quality Monitoring Data Viewer
- Pierce County Watershed Health Report Card
- Pierce County Stormwater Management Program @(Model.BulletStyle == CivicPlus.Entities.Modules.Layout.Enums.BulletStyle.Decimal ? "ol" : "ul")>