Wednesday, April 16, 2014

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An Introduction to Water Quality

Water quality is the term scientists use to describe the health of a lake and its ability to support a balance of plant and animal life and provide human needs for drinking water and recreation. Some of the ways that scientists measure water quality include taking Secchi depths (to measure water clarity), measuring pH and dissolved oxygen ( both important for fish-life), and observing the number of native plant and animal species (biodiversity). Basically, scientists monitor whether or not all of the necessary ingredients for a healthy lake are always present. This can be difficult, however, because no two lakes are exactly alike and each will have slightly different colors, clarity, and “ingredients” to make it healthy.

A lake in an undeveloped watershed can remain healthy for thousands of years before natural processes disrupt its balance. In comparison, a lake in a developed watershed could remain healthy for as short a time as a few decades. Historically, human development in a watershed has had a large impact on lake health and water quality, but there are some accepted practices that minimize this effect. They include not dumping soaps, detergents, and boat fluids into the lake, maintaining shorefront buffers, and cautious boating habits. The effort to maintain excellent water quality in a lake will not only help wildlife but also benefit the local economy, property values, and recreation purposes. By striking a balance between environmental protection and human use, we can prolong the healthy lives of our lakes and be able to enjoy them for years to come.


Additional Information

  • Maine Volunteer Lake Monitoring Program: Maine has over 6,000 lakes and ponds, certainly too many for the Department of Environmental Protection to monitor alone. Instead, they rely on help from hundreds of volunteers to collect Secchi depth measurements and keep an eye out for invasive species.
  • PEARL: The PEARL site is maintained by the University of Maine at Orono and provides water quality and geographic information about watersheds across the state.
  • Buffer Handbook: Buffers are one of the best ways possible to keep unfiltered runoff out of a lake. The ME Bureau of Land & Water Quality developed a guide to help shore front property owners develop and maintain the best possible buffer.



Resources for Educators – Water Quality

Water is our most precious limited resource on Earth. It is important to protect our water sources and maintain them at the highest level possible because abundant fresh water is not something we can get back once lost. It is never too early for children to learn how to properly interact with the water systems around them. The following links provide lesson plans and tools for children and young adults about how to establish environmentally friendly habits that are easy to do.


Additional Information

  • KIDS (Kids Involved Doing Service-Learning): A non-profit organization that serves schools and community organizations in Maine and throughout New England. KIDS assists teachers, administrators and community partners as they work with K-12 students to identify, research and address real community challenges. Students are involved in powerful learning experiences, forge stronger ties to their community, and gain the skills and confidence they need to become engaged citizens.
  • Maine Watershed Web: A website for collaborative watershed education and research in Maine.
  • State of Maine’s Lakes: The Maine Bureau of Land & Water Quality website with information regarding monitoring and assessment, newsletters, and public reports about the state of Maine’s lakes.
  • Project WET (Water Education for Teachers): A world-wide initiative to teach people about our most valuable natural resource.
  • Portland Water District: Activities and workshops about water education in Maine.
  • Environmental Kids Club: A program developed by the Environmental Protection Agency to establish environmentally friendly practices in children at an early age.


Maine Lakes Society 

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