Nutrient pollution and associated eutrophication of freshwaters threaten the ecological integrity and the services provided to humans by lakes. We examined how human residential development influenced the level of lake eutrophication in the Seattle, WA, USA, region. We surveyed 30 lakes and measured 3 indicators of eutrophication: concentrations of chlorophyll-a and phosphorus, and the proportion of algae that are inedible to zooplankton. We classified lakes based on the waste-treatment method for shoreline homes: septic, sewer, and undeveloped lakes. Septic lakes occurred along the urban-rural fringe while sewer lakes occurred near urban centers. Septic lakes were more eutrophic than sewer lakes and undeveloped lakes, as indicated by higher levels of phosphorus and chlorophyll-a. These results suggest that septic systems contribute to the high levels of eutrophication in lakes at the urban-rural fringe. Lakes at the urban-rural fringe represent an opportunity for proactive management of urban expansion to minimize lake eutrophication.
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