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DEC proposes nutrient pollution reduction budget for Cayuga Lake

The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation has announced a proposed nutrient pollution reduction “budget” for Cayuga Lake to help protect drinking water quality and restore the water quality of the lake’s southern end for recreation.

The draft Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL) for the lake released today provides a detailed analysis of phosphorus pollutant sources and recommends a 30 percent reduction of phosphorus loads to the Cayuga Lake watershed.

“DEC is committed to protecting Cayuga Lake and sources of drinking water statewide from pollutants that could damage long-term water quality,” DEC Commissioner Basil Seggos said. “The measure proposed today to significantly reduce Cayuga watershed’s phosphorus loads will be instrumental to safeguarding the long-term health of the lake and helping prevent water quality impairments like harmful algal blooms, excessive weed growth, and turbidity. The TMDL pollution budget will be the basis for an implementation plan to cooperatively achieve pollution reduction requirements.”

The draft TMDL incorporates years of research, modeling, and water quality analyses to bolster strategies to reduce nutrients in the watershed. When implemented, the TMDL will help restore the impaired southern end lake segment and protect drinking water quality for the remainder of the lake. Building upon the Harmful Algal Bloom (HABs) Action Plan developed for Cayuga Lake in 2018, the draft TMDL recommends phosphorus load reduction strategies for the collaborative implementation of phosphorus pollution mitigation measures.

Phosphorus comes from facilities that include wastewater treatment plants, municipal separate storm sewer systems, agricultural runoff, and other sources. For more information about clean water protections, visit Once finalized, and after careful review of public comments received, DEC will work with Cayuga Lake stakeholders to implement the TMDL and achieve reductions from identified sources to achieve the TMDL’s water quality targets.

Cayuga Lake is a critical resource for drinking water, tourism, and recreation in the region. There is significant public interest in protecting Cayuga Lake among local residents and other stakeholders, and DEC anticipates the TMDL will be used by stakeholders throughout the entire watershed to protect and improve the water quality of Cayuga Lake.

The release of the proposed TMDL is the latest DEC action to protect Cayuga Lake’s water quality. Since 2017, New York State has invested more than $4 million in water quality improvements in the lake’s watershed through the Water Quality Improvement Project program and other grant programs. Completed projects include streambank stabilizations, septic maintenance and pump-out, stormwater mapping in MS4 areas, and installation of agricultural best management practices. In addition, in 2018 Cayuga Lake was selected as one of 12 priority lakes in Governor Cuomo’s HABs Initiative, prioritizing the lake for funding for water quality improvement projects.

The draft Cayuga Lake TMDL is available at DEC is accepting written comments until 5 p.m. on May 24. Comments should be submitted by mail to: NYS DEC – Division of Water, Bureau of Water Resource Management, 625 Broadway, 4th Floor, Albany, NY 12233-3508; or by email to: [email protected]. In addition, DEC is holding a virtual public meeting about the draft TMDL on Monday, April 19, at 5:30 p.m. To participate in the virtual meeting, go to Please use the same link to pre-register prior to the meeting.