NORMAN — An experimental prototype at Lake Thunderbird is making history and could provide solutions for troubled lakes everywhere.
Now in its third year, the Supersaturated Dissolved Oxygen System, or SDOX, is showing positive results.
Steven Cadenhead from the Oklahoma Water Resources Board reported the program’s success to the Central Oklahoma Master Conservancy District board on Thursday. The primary goal of the experimental project is to add oxygen to the bottom layer of lake water.
“We’re able to make a noticeable effect in a good chunk of the target area,” Cadenhead said. “There was a really good dispersal of oxygen in the target area.”
Organic matter and nutrients like phosphorous build up in the bottom of lakes. The organic matter uses oxygen as part of the decomposition process.
During the winter, the lake water is the same temperature, but as the upper portion of the lake water warms in the spring, the lake stratifies, isolating the bottom of the lake.
That isolation lets the decomposition of organics pull the oxygen from the lower depths. The lack of oxygen causes nutrients such as phosphorous to release from the sediment at the bottom of the lake.
In the fall as the water cools, that nutrient-rich, isolated water rises and feeds the algae. In addition to other problems, this algae is one of the primary contributors to taste and odor problems in Norman’s drinking water from the lake.
While recent TMDL studies by the Department of Environmental Quality map the amounts of nutrients like phosphorous that are feeding into the Lake Thunderbird watershed, COMCD did not wait for that study to take proactive action to improve water quality.
By working with BlueInGreen out of the University of Arkansas to install the SDOX system, the board hoped to improve the water quality of its municipal customers.