Measures of chlorophyll represent the algal biomass in freshwater lakes that is often used by managers as a proxy for water quality and lake productivity. However, chlorophyll concentrations in lakes are dependent on many interacting factors, including nutrient inputs, mixing regime, lake depth, climate, and anthropogenic activities within the watershed. Therefore, integrating a broad scale dataset of lake physical, chemical, and biological characteristics can help elucidate the response of freshwater ecosystems to global change. We synthesized a database of measured chlorophyll a (chla) values, associated water chemistry variables, and lake morphometric characteristics for 11,959 freshwater lakes distributed across 72 countries. Data were collected based on a systematic review examining 3322 published manuscripts that measured lake chla, and we supplemented these data with online repositories such as The Knowledge Network for Biocomplexity, Dryad, and Pangaea. This publicly available database can be used to improve our understanding of how chlorophyll levels respond to global environmental change and provide baseline comparisons for environmental managers responsible for maintaining water quality in lakes.