Science and data

Windermere has long been a destination for tourists, since the Picturesque and Romantic movements starting in the 18th Century. Around this time, increased nutrients from poorly-treated waste started altering the phytoplankton (algae) communities as more people flocked to the area.

Dr Ben Surridge of Lancaster University speaking at the Freshwater Biological Association’s ‘thank you’ event for volunteers who support the Big Windermere Survey held at the Windermere Jetty Museum on Saturday 23rd September 2023
Dr Surridge explains more about the value of the Big Windermere Survey

Nutrient enrichment has been a significant challenge over the last two centuries, causing an increase in algal blooms and deoxygenation of the lake at depth.

The Freshwater Biological Association (FBA) has had a base on Windermere for more than 90 years and started collecting long-term data on Windermere and other iconic lakes in the 1940s. The UK Centre for Ecology & Hydrology (UKCEH) took over this monitoring in the late 1980s and these datasets are immensely important for showing how conditions in Windermere have changed over time.  There are however still many questions to be answered, especially surrounding the mechanisms affecting nutrient cycling in the lake, the effects of climate change, and how other potential stressors may affect lake ecology.

We are working with other independent scientific experts including Lancaster University and the UK Centre for Ecology & Hydrology to start to answer some of these questions and develop research programmes to help us better understand how and why Windermere is changing. We will be using the best available evidence to address the following questions:

  • Where are key nutrient sources in the catchment and how can we manage these?
  • How do bacterial concentrations, which can potentially impact human health, vary throughout the catchment?
  • What role may nutrients recycled from lakebed sediments play in affecting water quality?

As our research progresses and we have findings to share, these will be communicated on this website.

Useful sources of information

The State of Windermere information note: https://www.fba.org.uk/fba-voice/the-state-of-windermere-information-note

Blue Green Algae explainer: https://consult.environment-agency.gov.uk/cumbria-and-lancashire/blue-green-algae-in-cumbria-and-lancashire/

Current data on water quality and ecology from Environment Agency:  https://environment.data.gov.uk/catchment-planning

Cumbrian Lakes Monitoring Platform: https://uk-scape.ceh.ac.uk/our-science/projects/cumbrian-lakes-monitoring-platform/

Big Windermere Survey results:   https://www.fba.org.uk/freshwater-citizen-science/love-your-lake-the-big-windermere-survey

Storm overflow and pollution data:  https://www.unitedutilities.com/corporate/responsibility/environment/reducing-pollution/storm-overflows/storm-overflow-performance/

Windermere SAGIS Report – This short report describes the phosphorus source apportionment data for the Windermere catchment that has been produced by the Environment Agency. View Windermere SAGIS Report