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A Beginner's Guide to Water Management—Water Clarity



Water clarity is one of the most noticeable attributes of a waterbody. It's also of great importance to many people. However, crystal clear water is not the ruler by which all lakes should be measured. As you'll learn in this circular, lakes with a wide range of water clarity occur naturally in Florida. Anyone interested in the subject can benefit from reading this basic introduction. Topics range from how we measure water clarity, what affects it, the relationship between water clarity and biological productivity, and techniques used for managing water clarity in lakes. Mathematical models are introduced as a way of predicting water clarity in lakes. This reader-friendly booklet is 33 pages in length and includes numerous photographs and figures.

Note: Circular 103 is available in Portable Document Format (pdf) only. It can be obtained as a single PDF file by clicking on the "Printer Friendly Version" link above (file size =1.1 MB).

Keywords: Algae, algal levels, aquatic plant abundance, aquatic macrophytes, aquatic plants, biological productivity, chlorophyll concentrations, chlorophyll, color, dissolved substances, empirical models, geologic region, glossary, hyperbolic relationships, lake location, lake region, managing lakes for water clarity, measuring water clarity, nutrient concentrations, nutrients, particulates, seasonal variations, Secchi depth, suspended particles, trophic state, and water clarity.

Publication #Cir103

Release Date:November 17, 2020

Reviewed At:October 25, 2022

  • Critical Issue: Natural Resources and Environment
Fact Sheet

About this Publication

This document, CIR 103, is the third of a series of information circulars dedicated to familiarizing citizens with the language and techniques used by those involved in water management within the state of Florida. First printed in April 2000. A second edition was printed in September 2000. This is the third edition, published in September 2001. Reviewed by Mark Hoyer June 2020. Printed copies are available through UF/IFAS Extension and/or from the LAKEWATCH program itself. However, they may also be downloaded by visiting the EDIS website at or the Florida LAKEWATCH website at

About the Authors

Florida LAKEWATCH is a research program coordinated within the UF/IFAS Department of Fisheries and Aquatic Sciences. LAKEWATCH facilitates public involvement in the management of Florida waters by training citizen volunteers to collect monthly water samples, algae samples, and water clarity information from a lake or waterbody of their choice. Over time, these data are used to document nutrient levels and to predict biological productivity. For more information about the monitoring program or to obtain LAKEWATCH data, call 1-800-LAKEWATCH (1-800-525-3928) or search the website at Photos used with permission as credited.


  • Mark Hoyer