The importance of understanding how a watershed functions and the impacts of land use on the water quality of Lake George.
A key concept for understanding the water quality of a lake or pond is that of a watershed. Simply put a watershed is the area of land where all of the water that is under it or flows across it ends up in a common place. In Lake George, the mountains that surround the lake act like a funnel where all water runs down the mountainside into the lake. Everything, every property, is part of a watershed. Water moves through a network of drainage pathways, both underground and on the surface. Generally, these pathways converge into streams and rivers that become progressively larger as the water moves downstream toward its destination, which could be a lake or ocean. Every tributary, stream and river is part of a watershed, and small watersheds join to become larger ones. Watersheds come in all shapes and sizes. Some are thousands of square miles and others are just a few acres.
Think of our watershed as a bowl, with Lake George at the bottom. Everything runs down the sides of the bowl. Water that lands at the top of Tongue Mountain, for instance, is either infiltrated into the groundwater or runs downhill into a stream. All of which eventually reaches the lake. The image above illustrates how water moves through the watershed.
Rain that falls onto the ground and is not infiltrated or ponded in a pool, becomes runoff as it flows across the land surface. This runoff often collects contaminants and results in pollution. There are two sources of pollution that affect a watershed:
- Point-source pollution, such as industrial waste discharges, refers to pollution that empties into a body of water from one direct source, such as a pipe or storm drain.
- Non-point source pollution comes from varied sources, such as oil that has dripped from a car in a parking lot, fertilizers applied to a yard or from a poorly functioning septic system. All of these sources end up in a watershed's final destination, which is the case in Lake George.
The Lake George watershed includes more than 149,000 acres, or nearly 233 square miles. The surface area of Lake George is about 28,000 acres. There is about a 5:1 ratio of land area to water area. Compared to other watersheds, this is a small land-to-water ratio. For example, the ratio in the Lake Champlain watershed is 19:1. This means that the Lake Champlain watershed has a much larger land area that impacts its water quality. The small land-to-water ratio is one reason that the water quality of Lake George has been protected for so long. Despite this, however, the developed areas in the Lake George watershed have had a significant impact, causing a steady decline in water quality.
The deterioration of the water quality of Lake George has been well documented by scientific research. Public observations reinforce this research. Many residents and regular summer visitors have noticed that the lake is not as clear as it used to be and that algae is more abundant on the lake bottom, rocks and docks.
Many links have been established between the specific land use practices and negative impacts to water quality. The health of the lake will improve if landowners in the watershed - from the southern basin to the lake's north end and from shoreline to mountaintop - practice better property management with an awareness of their impact to water quality. The research involving improved land use practices is compelling. Fortunately, there are examples of superb property management where water quality protection is a primary concern. But these are counterbalanced by many poor land use practices. This is unfortunate since there are many ways to mitigate the impacts of land use while allowing property owners to fully use and enjoy their land. Practices that mitigate the negative impacts of land use include rain gardens, regular septic system maintenance, vegetated shoreline and stream buffers, and the elimination of fertilizers and pesticides.
Do-It-Yourself Water Quality guide shows the way to help protect Lake George.
This award winning publication provides landowners around Lake George with sound information about how to manage and landscape their lands to protect the water quality of Lake George.
To get a copy today, contact us by phone at 518.668.9700 x300, by email email@example.com or stop into the FUND for Lake George office at 2199a State Route 9, Lake George. Get your copy today and begin the process today to manage your property in ways that help protect the water quality of Lake George.