Lakes and Ponds Monitoring
The analysis of lake and pond water in Maine is conducted primarily by state and community groups to monitor changes in water quality and ecosystem health. Lake and pond water in Maine is subject to a number of threats, from airborne pollutants like acid rain and mercury deposition to changes in water chemistry from land runoff and other human inputs to changes in the physical characteristics of water bodies due to climate change (e.g. more storm events, higher temperatures). This is not to mention the introduction of larger invasive species of plants and critters.
The biggest players in this arena are the Maine DEP's Lake Monitoring and Assessment Program and the Lake Stewards of Maine (formerly known as the Maine Volunteer Lake Monitoring Program). Together with Maine's university scientists and students, and dozens of smaller lake stewardship groups, they have created one of the best data-sets for lake water quality in the country (links below).
Streams and Rivers
The Maine DEP created the Volunteer River Monitoring Program (VRMP) in 2009 to coordinate the efforts of existing volunteer monitoring groups.
|Typical Water Quality Indicators||Lakes and Ponds monitoring||Streams monitoring||Test performed in field||MEL does this|
|anions and cations||x|
|bacteria - enterococcus||x||x|
|bacteria -E. coli, fecal coliform||x||x|
|suspended sediment concentration||x|
|total dissolved solids (TDS)||x||x|
|total Kjeldahl-nitrogen (TKN)||x||x|
|total suspended solids (TSS)||x||x|
|transparency (Secchi disk)||x||x|
|Source of data||List from Lake Stewards of Maine Water Quality Indicators||
Lake Stewards if Maine SOP
Fresh Water Swimming Safety & Bacteria
The State of Maine Dept. of Human Services determines if fresh water is clean enough for swimmer safety by testing for E. coli (enumerated). (Yes, we test for that). The safety limit for swimming has been set at 235 MPN/100 mL. Enterococcus testing can also be used (we do that, too).
The Swim Guide.org (website and App) helps you easily find your closest local beaches, and know at a glance which ones are safe for swimming. Includes some educational tidbits about bacterial water testing.
Maine DEP "Monitoring and Assessment of Lakes" (webpage): http://www.maine.gov/dep/water/monitoring/lake/index.html
Lakes of Maine (website) - comprehensive data on Maine's 5000+ lakes: https://www.lakesofmaine.org/
Lake Stewards of Maine (website) - information-rich site dedicated to water quality monitoring and volunteer education: https://www.lakestewardsofmaine.org/
Maine Lakes Society (website) - a consortium of dozens of Maine lakes groups: http://mainelakessociety.org/
Maine Volunteer River Monitoring Program: http://www.maine.gov/dep/water/monitoring/rivers_and_streams/vrmp/index.html
Maine Water Resources (US Geological Survey, Maine Office) - https://me.water.usgs.gov/
"Maine Lakes: Living on the Edge?" (61-minute video,2016), a George Mitchell Center panel presentation about the interdisciplinary project called "Engaging Citizen Scientists to Evaluate Water Quality Decline"
Maine Waters Status Report
The Clean Water Act requires states to report on changes in their water quality every two years.* Data is collected from numerous public entities, including volunteer monitoring programs.
*12/2020 Update: The Maine DEP reports that the 2016 report is the most recent existing Water Quality Monitoring Report. Then next report will be a combined 2018-2020-2022 report and will be published mid-2022.