Lake Springfield is a reservoir built by impounding water upstream of Spaulding Dam on Sugar Creek.
In general, the raw water quality of the lake is typical of many midwestern reservoirs.
Rain falling directly on Lake Springfield is one source of water supplying the lake; however,
the predominant supply is runoff from the 265-square-mile watershed that lies primarily
southwest of the lake. The watershed is the system of drainage ways, most notably Lick and
Sugar Creeks and their tributaries, that collect runoff water and groundwater from as far west as
Waverly and as far south as Virden. The land use in the watershed is approximately 88 percent agriculturally
oriented with the row cropping of corn and soybeans predominating. Given the agricultural nature of the
watershed, the lake is very much influenced by the soils, land uses, and human activity occurring within
the watershed. These influences, seasonal changes, and the dynamic nature of the lake ecosystems all
contribute to the quality of water in the lake.
CWLP biologists and chemists regularly collect lake samples in cooperation with the Illinois
Environmental Protection Agency's Volunteer Lake Monitoring Program. Parameters such as pH,
temperature, dissolved oxygen, clarity, conductivity, alkalinity, nutrients, and suspended solids
are measured and recorded in a database for use in comparing trends over time. In 1999, the utility
initiated an E. coli monitoring program. Taking a lead from the Illinois Department of Public Health,
which uses high levels of E. coli as an indicator of potential health concerns at bathing beaches,
CWLP monitors regularly for E. coli at five locations around the lake.
Monitoring has indicated that E. coli levels rapidly increase after rainfall events and then subside within a few days.
Recreational users now have the opportunity to use this monitoring information to help them decide
where and in which areas of the lake they choose to recreate at any given time.
Many sport fishermen use dissolved oxygen levels and water temperatures to determine
the best depth for finding fish. The measurements are taken at one to two foot depth intervals and
the most recent readings are recorded on a map that is available for viewing in the documents section.
For near real-time temperature data for Lake Springfield year-round, visit the Land of Lincoln Power Squadron’s weather station site and refer to “Soil Temp,” which is the water temperature 8 feet deep near Lindsay Bridge.
Approximately every two weeks from spring through fall, CWLP measures dissolved levels and temperature at five different locations on the lake:
- Near the water intake tower, near Spaulding Dam
- In the main basin of the lake, midway between Lindsay Bridge and the C&IM Railroad bridge
- Just west of the C&IM Railroad bridge
- In the upper (Lick Creek) arm, between Woodside Bridge and the I-55 bridge
- In the lower (Sugar Creek) arm, near the Wildlife Sanctuary
E. coli is a naturally occurring bacterium that originates in the intestines of humans
and other animals. It can be found virtually everywhere, including in raw water supplies.
While some strains of E. coli are "friendly" to humans and are a necessary component of our
digestive process, others can cause serious illness or even death. E. coli is ubiquitous
(found virtually everywhere) and it's presence is easy to test for. The presence of large quantities of
E. coli is often considered to be an indicator of the possible presence of high levels of other,
potentially harmful, microorganisms, including Leptospira, the bacteria that causes leptospirosis.
Under normal conditions, CWLP tests for E. coli in the raw lake water every two weeks from the spring through the fall.
If readings are abnormally high, more frequent samples will be taken. Results of each of these
tests since March 24, 1999, are listed in the table below. Test results are also shown on an E. coli map.
Recreational users of any lake, river or other body of fresh water should be aware that
they are not swimming in a chlorinated pool, but rather in a natural environment complete
with fish, aquatic insects, and naturally occurring microorganisms such as bacteria and protozoans.
While most of these organisms are not harmful to humans, quantities of pathogenic (disease-causing)
bacteria might be present at certain times, particularly after heavy rainfalls.
Sources of these organisms can be wildlife, sewage treatment plants, livestock facilities, and failing septic systems.
Although the source was never identified, an outbreak of leptospirosis (a bacterial infection)
occurred among recreational users of Lake Springfield in 1998. This is the only identified
outbreak of its kind in Lake Springfield, and it appeared to be related to a period of extensive rainfall.
Since that 1998 occurrence, no one has come down with the illness after using the lake.
Swimming and wading are permitted in Lake Springfield only in designated areas.
Rules and regulations regarding this type of water activity must be followed at all times.
CWLP has the authority to prohibit these activities at any time in order to prevent pollution
or injury to the lake or to prevent disease or danger to human life.
Swimming from boats on Lake Springfield is permitted,
but only between sunrise and sunset and only in "no wake"
zones adjacent to non-leased marginal lands.
Swimming within 150 feet of the shoreline of marginal lands that have been
leased by the City to lake-area residents and private organizations is
permitted under certain conditions, but only with the lessee's consent.
Under certain circumstances, CWLP's general manager may also approve swimming in areas
other than those noted above. Before such approval would be granted, however,
prerequisites, including the availability of experienced lifeguards and
sanitary toilet facilities, would have to be met. For some more information, click below.
When using a lake, river or any other body of fresh water for recreation,
there are risks of infection from a variety of microorganisms that are naturally present
in freshwater habitats. An example of such an infection is leptospirosis, which struck a
number of triathletes and recreational users of Lake Springfield in summer 1998.
Leptospira interrogans is a bacteria that is spread from infected mammals to humans,
usually by exposure of the eyes, nose, open mouth, or cuts to water that has been
contaminated with the urine of an infected animal. Direct contact with the urine,
blood or tissue of an infected animal is another avenue of exposure. Both wild and
domestic animals can be infected with, and be the source of, the bacteria that causes leptospirosis.
Symptoms of leptospirosis can include fever, chills, vomiting, headache,
muscle aches, diarrhea, abdominal pain, eye pain, red eyes, and dark urine.
Symptoms usually begin within two to 10 days of exposure, although it is possible
for onset to take 30 days or more. The illness can be treated with antibiotics, but,
if left untreated, more serious complications could occur.
Exercising certain precautions when using bodies of fresh water can help reduce your
chance of becoming infected by Leptospira interrogans and other
disease-causing microorganisms. These precautions include avoiding:
- water skiing, jet skiing, swimming or wading when you have cuts, scrapes or athlete's foot
- swallowing the water
- swimming in muddy water, particularly after heavy rainfalls
To help reduce the possibility that infectious diseases will be spread through the lake water,
persons with any type of contagious diseases or skin infections are not permitted
to swim in the lake for the duration of their condition.
To better allow swimmers in Lake Springfield to judge the potential health risks
posed by the lake water at any given time, CWLP regularly tests the water for the presence
of the E. coli bacteria. The Illinois Department of Public Health uses high levels of E. coli as
an indicator of potential health concerns at bathing beaches. High levels of E. coli are believed
to indicate the potential for high levels of other harmful microorganisms,
including Leptospira interrogans, for which there is no reliable test.