1. The relationship between epilithic algal communities and 17 environmental variables from 17 oligo- to eutrophic lakes in the English Lake District was explored using canonical correspondence analysis (CCA). Total phosphorus (TP) and calcium (Ca) concentration were the most important variables accounting for species distribution. 2. Weighted-averaging regression and calibration models with tolerance downweighting and classical deshrinking were developed to infer TP, Ca, dissolved inorganic carbon (DIC) and conductivity from the relative abundance of 138 epilithic algal taxa. 3. The ranges of the environmental variables covered by the models are 0.8-49.2 μg L−1 for TP, 2.2–13.0 mg L−1 for Ca, 0.5–8.6 mg L−1 for DIC and 38–124 μS cm−1 for conductivity. Within these limits the models can be used to infer chemical properties of lakes from epilithic communities in the English Lake District. 4. The major advantages of using transfer functions based on epilithic communities are the low logistic requirements and the integrative character of algal samples compared to direct point measurements of chemical parameters of the lakes.