AUGUSTA — Maine has over six thousand lakes, and while Lake Stewards of Maine (LSM) currently has lake monitors on several hundred of them, most are not monitored for water quality or surveyed for invasive species. This is especially true for lakes in Aroostook County. In fact, only 8 of county lakes are regularly monitored for water quality.
It would be too costly to hire professionals to monitor every lake in the state, so in the 1970’s Maine Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) started the Volunteer Lake Monitoring Program, the oldest volunteer lake monitoring program in the country. In the mid-1990s the program transitioned to a non-profit organization now known as Lake Stewards of Maine. The program trains residents to become citizen lake scientists collecting high quality data. This is an effective and cost-efficient way to gather vital information about the health of Maine’s lakes, but it depends on volunteers around the state.
Until recently the program required new volunteers to travel to their office in Auburn Maine, but on June 16th and 17th 2022 Lake Stewards, with the assistance of Maine DEP, Friends of Nickerson Lake and Friends of Cross Lake, they will be offering two training events for new volunteers in Aroostook County, one on Cross Lake and one on Nickerson. This is your chance to help track the health of your lake.
All Lake Steward workshops are free! The program provides volunteers with water quality monitoring equipment: a Secchi disk with calibrated tape and a viewing scope. Volunteer monitors must have access to a boat (and for larger lakes, a motor) because transparency readings are generally taken at the deepest point in the lake basin. A strong anchor and rope are also required. Volunteers collect transparency data every two weeks from May to October (twice/month) and submit their data directly to Lake Stewards. Volunteers should plan on collecting water quality data annually for years.
Long term annual data provides a history of a lake’s health, helping scientists at Lake Stewards and Maine DEP determine if a lake is improving, staying about the same or has declining water quality. It can also provide a red flag when significant changes in water clarity occur which can lead to further investigations. For information about Maine lakes, visit DEP’s website at https://www.maine.gov/dep//water/lakes/ME-lakes.html.
To determine if a particular lake already has certified monitors, please visit LSM’s lake resource website, LakesOfMaine.org. Search for your lake, go to the lake page and click on monitoring. If your lake doesn’t have a volunteer monitor, consider volunteering by contacting the Lake Stewards of Maine. For information about Maine lakes, visit DEP’s website at https://www.maine.gov/dep//water/lakes/ME-lakes.html.
For additional information, contact:
David R. Madore, Deputy Commissioner, Maine DEP
Kathy Hoppe, Maine DEP – Presque Isle Office
Tristan Taber, Lake Stewards of Maine