Aerial view of Cayuga Lake

Prof. Todd Cowen (CEE) commented in the Ithaca Journal, on Cornell University’s lake source cooling (LSC) system and the need for a lake-wide study of Cayuga Lake 

Todd Cowen: Let’s Move beyond Lake Source Cooling as Phosphorous Culprit

December 7, 2012

Aerial view of Cayuga Lake

Prof. Todd Cowen (CEE) commented in the Ithaca Journal, on Cornell University’s lake source cooling (LSC) system and the need for a lake-wide study of Cayuga Lake. An excerpt follows:

Guest Viewpoint: Let’s move beyond Lake Source Cooling as phosphorous culprit
December 5, 2012

Todd CowenTodd Cowen (CEE)

I am first and foremost a citizen in the Cayuga Lake watershed. My family and I are all frequent users of Cayuga Lake and have been for years. We own a small sailboat and three kayaks. We regularly swim in the lake from these boats and from East Shore Park. Both of my children row competitively on the lake out of the Cascadilla Boat Club…

I know more than a little bit about lake source cooling. In my day job, I’m a tenured faculty member in the School of Civil and Environmental Engineering at Cornell University, where my research interests include environmental fluid mechanics and sustainability. LSC has reduced the university’s carbon footprint (along with sulfur and other pollutants) by more than 80 percent relative to the coal-fired, electric-powered chillers it replaced. It is a tremendous project…

What is really happening in the Cayuga Lake? Should we be concerned? We don’t know. The proposed lake-wide modeling and subsequent total maximum daily loading process will provide an opportunity for lake managers to move beyond LSC as the phantom culprit and let science determine what truly is the cause of the soluble reactive phosphorus increase in the hypolimnion and the subsequent chlorophyll-a increase lake wide. The developed modeling tools proposed under the DEC’s permit for LSC will allow scientists to determine what the effects of point and non-point sources are in the overall Cayuga Lake phosphorus budget and will reveal if some source or some biogeochemical process — which is perhaps converting TP to SRP — is missing from our current understanding…

Cowen is an associate professor of civil and environmental engineering, the director of the DeFrees Hydraulics Laboratory, and a fellow at the Atkinson Center for a Sustainable Future at Cornell University. He lives in Ithaca.

(The full text of the article is no longer online, but should be available from the Ithaca Journal.)