July is Lakes Appreciation Month all over the United States. We work on lakes, play on them, and drink from them–but do people take time to really appreciate the local lakes, ponds, or drinking water source of the watershed? All 6,000 Maine lakes and ponds provide critical habitat for other living creatures – aquatic macroinvertebrates, plankton, fish, wildlife and vegetation – and those ponds and lakes need protection so that clean fresh water continues to be one of Maine’s premier natural resources. Lakes Appreciation Month is a time to think about where we all would be without water. It is also a time to think about the threats facing lakes and ponds; growing population, development, and invasive plants and animals put stress on these waterbodies. All life relies on water, and yet it is often taken for granted that these water resources will always be there and always be usable.

There are two easy ways to help keep local ponds and lakes healthy. One is to join the Courtesy Boat Inspection (CBI) volunteer team for Biscay Pond and Pemaquid Pond through Pemaquid Watershed Association (PWA), or for Damariscotta Lake through Damariscotta Lake Watershed Association (DLWA). Voluntary inspections reduce the spread of invasive aquatic plants by boats, trailers, and associated equipment to Maine waters; trained Courtesy Boat Inspectors describe to boaters the risk posed by invasive aquatic plants, show boaters how to inspect and remove vegetation from boating and fishing equipment, and answer questions regarding the invasive aquatic plants. All CBI volunteers receive training, a Courtesy Boat Inspector tee shirt, and materials and information to pass out to boaters. There are shifts available for new CBI volunteers. Come spend two hours at the water’s edge, meet nice folks, and help keep invasive plants out of the ponds.

Another way to protect local ponds and lakes is through the LakeSmart Program, an education and reward program for lakefront property owners who maintain homes in ways that protect lake water quality and property values. Administered by the Maine Lakes Society and conducted locally, the program focuses on lakefront property owners by educating, assisting, and recognizing those who maintain their shorefront land using measures that manage storm water on site and prevent groundwater flows of septic effluent to lakes. It is a free program and participation is simple. Contact PWA or DLWA to arrange a LakeSmart visit by a trained screener who will provide you with information and recommendations on how to live lightly on the land in order to protect the lake. No one wants to live on a green algae filled lake, and keeping the fragile pond ecosystems healthy fosters high property values.

Lakes Appreciation Month is also a good time to set aside a week, a day or even just an hour to celebrate a favorite waterbody. Here are some ideas: help monitor local waterbodies or watershed with PWA or DLWA; visit a local lake, pond, or reservoir with friends and family; go boating, kayaking, canoeing, sailing or rowing; go swimming or SCUBA diving; go fishing; help arrange a lake clean-up event; go birding or take pictures at a lake or pond; and sign a letter to the Governor to ask to proclaim July as Lake Appreciation Month in Maine. To sign: http://www.nalms.org/home/programs/lakes-appreciation-month/lakes-appreciation-month-letter/lakes-appreciation-month-letter.cmsx. You can also join the North American Lakes Management Society (NALMS) Show Your Lakes Appreciation Challenge to promote and encourage support for Lakes Appreciation Month. For more information on the fun challenge, go to: http://www.nalms.org/home/programs/lakes-appreciation-month/show-your-lakes-appreciation-challenge/show-your-lakes-appreciation-challenge.cmsx.

Contact PWA or DLWA for more information concerning the programs to protect the watershed. PWA and DLWA always enjoy working in collaboration to support their missions. Both organizations are volunteer-based, membership-supported, non-profit organizations.

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