The 4 Stages of Water

Like any ecosystem, lakes and ponds naturally change over time through succession. As many outside
inputs accumulate, changes in water chemistry, sediment makeup, and organism presence occurs. The
aging of a lake or pond is a natural process, but can be highly accelerated through human activity and
industry, reducing a waterbody’s life by decades.

Ponds or lakes can typically be described to be in four stages of a life cycle:

Stage One

New or relatively new ponds & lakes

  • Blue or green highly transparent water

  • Low dissolved nutrients (especially nitrogen and calcium)

  • Sediment with low levels of organic matter

  • Visually appealing

  • Healthy population of aquatic species


Stage Two

After 5 years with no preventative treatment

  • Lakes are commonly clear but can be murky for short periods of time

  • Smaller bodies of water and ponds will form beds of submerged aquatic plants

  • A medium level of dissolved nitrogen and calcium and typically phosphorus

  • Sediment has a much higher level of organic matter (muck starts to form)


Stage Three

After 10 years with no preventative treatment and often misuse

  • Ponds and lakes have excessive nutrients, especially nitrogen and phosphorus

  • Established beds of aquatic plants at the shore line and sometimes several yards into the water

  • Often cloudy, murky water throughout most of the summer and fall

  • Algae will form as early as July, and becomes progressively more prevalent throughout the summer

  • Low available oxygen

  • Frequent fish kills and other amphibians and aquatic organisms

  • Reduced nutrient load entering into our waterways


Stage Four

After 10 years with no preventative treatment, misuse, and no reactive treatments

  • Lakes/ponds have extremely high level of nutrients especially nitrogen, ammonia and phosphorous resulting in cloudy murky water with continuous algal blooms

  • Aquatic growth is thick and nearly choking out the lake/pond

  • Fish kills are often during summer and winter