Maine Lakes Society is a membership organization with a mission to promote, protect and enhance lake water quality, and to preserve the ecological, economic, recreational, and aesthetic benefits of Maine’s lakes. We support our member lake associations with their local efforts, and engage our individual members in outreach, education and action. Read more about our mission, vision and core values.
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By Maggie Shannon
Nonpoint Source Pollution (NPS), the leading cause of lake impairment, is insidious. By definition, NPS is diffuse, minute and gradual in its encroachment on water quality. Public naïveté and the sequestration of gathering impacts in deep lake waters may obscure the drastic outcome from observers until the ultimate drop in dissolved oxygen beneath the thermocline kills fish or yields a bloom like that pictured here. Make no mistake, though not inevitable, this unimaginable future is possible for any lake in a developing watershed, however clear its water may appear today.
In 1998, the head of Lake Assessment at the Maine Department of Environmental Protection informed my lake association we had maybe 20 years to avert serious damage to water quality in Great Pond. Although it hasn’t bloomed yet, its area of anoxia at depth is 35 times greater than it was in 1983, and professionally guided research suggests we haven’t long to wait. Two upstream lakes in our chain of ponds bloom and a third is flirting with it at fall overturn. One of these three was treated with aluminum phosphate in 2018 and had a summerful of clear water for the first time in 30 years. It cost the community $2,000,000 and in the words of the primary fundraiser, “It was worth every penny.” This is no doubt true, but the fix is time-limited and may need to be repeated around 2040.
The point is, NPS is a Stealth Enemy, and it’s important for all lake associations to arm themselves against its approach. Because it’s counter-intuitive for uninformed lake dwellers to think hardly noticeable stormwater runoff could affect something as large as a lake, effective communication and site-specific remedies are wanted. LakeSmart’s unique delivery system, a friendly visit from friends and neighbors, is the surprisingly powerful answer. Leading edge research confirms that person-to-person conversation within a community is the best way to bring about change in behavior; snazzy brochures, advertising, and even expert advice can’t move the average person to change day-to-day acts. Think about it: lake associations are perfectly positioned to answer the need, and they (I mean you!) possess the passion, the influence, and people power to get the job done. Act now. Sign up for LakeSmart before more harm comes your lake’s way. We provide instruction, all materials, ongoing counsel and technical support without cost to our anti-NPS partners. FMI.
LakeSmart: Our Time For Action
Like the slow approach of twilight, lake declines are hard to see coming. But, as lakers in the know, you and I didn’t need the 4th National Climate Assessment (NCA 2018) to tell us that growing danger is fast approaching places that we love. The NCA’s stark warning – especially for the Northeast – tells us delay is a luxury we can’t afford. It’s time to act.
NCA 2018 said “… the Northeast is projected to be more than 3.6 degrees F warmer … the largest increase in the contiguous United States” by 2035. (See page 5 for more information regarding this report.) Among expected outcomes are longer stretches of drought punctuated by downpours during open water season – a bad prescription for lake health. Adding that alpine, freshwater aquatic and certain forest habitats (such as Maine’s spruce and fir) are most at risk, NCA 2018 emphasized that “increasing demands upon these ecosystems to support human use and development” intensify the threat.
A clearer call to action is hard to imagine, but when the very character of our whole region is at stake, choosing which path to follow may seem hard. We, at Maine Lakes Society, as well as many lake practitioners and leaders recommend adopting LakeSmart because its triple-bottom line is precisely what’s needed in our time and place: stable and improved water quality; healthier wildlife habitat on land and water; and a brake against climate change itself. It’s likely this remedy applies to most folks reading this article, since most of us live or recreate in developing lake watersheds.
If your association hasn’t joined LakeSmart, we urge you to do it now while we still have a fighting chance to shield our lakes. For free training and materials, call Drew Morris at 207-495-2301 and ask to get connected to the LakeSmart, or write firstname.lastname@example.org.
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