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Are you LakeSmart?

August 5, 2005

It’s a hot, hazy, summer afternoon and you’re at the lake. Clouds begin to form and suddenly the sky erupts with a heavy downpour. Water is running everywhere.

As you take cover, you observe the color of the lake changing from blue to brown near the shoreline where your camp road passes by the lake. The small stream near your cottage is also running brown, right into the lake.

Turning, you see a large amount of water washing off your neighbor’s cottage roof and large lawn straight into the lake. It’s the same lawn area where his two dogs love to play. What’s wrong with this picture?

If you answered, the runoff is polluting the lake – you’re right!! What we do on the land really does affect our lakes.

Erosion, roof runoff, fertilizer and pet wastes all hurt water quality by carrying pollutants like soil, phosphorous, oils and grease, and bacteria into the lake. Declining water quality prematurely ages a lake and can harm fish species, recreational uses and shorefront property values. It can also affect the local economy and increase taxes.

If you were unsure of what was “wrong with this picture”, though, you are not alone. The majority of Maine residents believe most of the rain and snow melt soaks into the ground. In fact, between 40-75% of rain water and snow melt runs off a yard and that’s what leads to problems in the lake.

If you want to help protect or improve your lake’s water quality, you can increase your Lake “I.Q.” through the DEP’s LakeSmart Program. This program provides information on ways to manage and landscape property in a “lake-friendly” way.

LakeSmart offers free courses and property site visits. Both activities feature hands-on advice regarding what can be done on the property to protect the lake while beautifying and adding value.

The site visit covers the following five areas: road, driveway and parking; structures and septic system; lawn, recreation area and footpaths; shorefront and beach; and undeveloped lands.

The LakeSmart program also provides an opportunity to be recognized for your lake-friendly efforts. There are two levels of acknowledgment. The first is a certificate recognizing accomplishment in any one of the five areas. The second is the LakeSmart Award for satisfying four areas of property management. The Award is a plaque and sign that recognizes the good work the homeowner is doing to protect the lake. Perhaps you have noticed the LakeSmart sign in your lake watershed!

Now is a great time to get LakeSmart and protect water quality for future generations! Courses are offered each summer in locations around the state. Visit our Web site to locate a course near you!

But, you don't have to attend a course to become LakeSmart. You can request a site visit to have your property evaluated for a possible award by contacting the DEP’s Lakes Education coordinator at 287-7734.

Enjoy a beautiful yard AND a beautiful, healthy lake. Be LakeSmart!

This column was submitted by William Laflamme, an Environmental Specialist with the Maine DEP's Bureau of Land and Water Quality. In Our Back Yard is an informational column of the Maine Department of Environmental Protection. E-mail your environmental questions to or send them to In Our Back Yard, Maine DEP, 17 State House Station, Augusta, ME 04333.