Maine lakes are a resource of inestimable value: Maine’s great ponds produce $3.5 billion in spending every year; supply drinking water to half our population; provide employment for over 52,000 Mainers, pay for essential municipal services through property tax revenues, and make Maine’s unique way of life possible.
Maine lakes are fragile: a recent satellite survey showed many Maine lakes lost as much as 20% of their clarity between 1995 and 2010; 26% of Maine’s great ponds rich enough in nutrients to support significant algal blooms; 268 of our great ponds are on the Maine Department of Environmental Protection’s Lakes at Risk list, meaning that in a short time they may fail to provide expected recreation, aquatic habitat, and safety for human use unless we care for them better.
Lakes are not a truly renewable resource: unlike rivers and streams which are constantly renewed with flowing water, lakes are still waters. That means they retain pollutants which accumulate over time. Once lakes pass a certain point of damage, they cannot be restored to full usefulness.
Changes in Weather Patterns are Accelerating Lake Damage Today’s more frequent and more violent storms accelerate nutrient loading to lakes feeding algal blooms and their attendant problems. These violent storms are occurring earlier in the year during months when there is little leaf cover to prevent erosion.
Shorter duration of ice cover means warmer water and longer growing seasons in lakes. A longer growing season gives algae more time to proliferate. Longer periods of lake stratification means reduces available dissolved oxygen in lake depths. Resulting changes in fish populations favor algal growth due to less predation on the zooplankton that keeps algae in check.
Population pressure plus climate change means we have to do more to protect Maine’s lake heritage.