The state of Lake Champlain:
A Summary

Although the water quality trends in Lake Champlain are cause for concern, it is important to know that more than 85% of Lake Champlain’s water is consistently of excellent quality and another 13% of the water is usually in quite good condition. In the remaining 2% of the Lake, conditions are seasonally alarming. The most compromised parts of the Lake are St. Albans and Missisquoi Bays, where excess nutrients and other factors trigger blue-green algae blooms in summer, and the South Lake, where the water tends to be quite muddy.

Too Much Phosphorus?

Yes, phosphorus concentrations remain too high.
Excess phosphorus remains a concern in nearly all segments of the Lake. Reductions in phosphorus load have been observed in a few tributaries over the last decade, but these small improvements have not yet resulted in significant reductions of in-lake phosphorus concentrations. Wastewater treatment facilities are generally meeting their phosphorus effluent targets, but much work remains to reduce nutrients washing off of the landscape. Until phosphorus concentrations in the Lake are closer to the established targets, algae blooms will continue to form when weather conditions are favorable for intense growth.

Goals of the
Clean Water Act
Swimmable Waters?

Yes, in most of the Lake, most of the time the water is good for swimming.
Lake Champlain has many beautiful beaches but access is sometimes restricted by beach closures. Elevated bacteria counts continue to cause beach closures, especially near urban areas where inadequate sewerage systems sometimes overflow during heavy rain events. The frequency of these closures should be reduced as sewerage issues are resolved around the Basin. Coliform bacterial contamination mostly results from wildlife and pet waste. Fortunately, closures due to bacterial contamination during the past several years have been infrequent and brief. Some beaches are also closed periodically as a result of blue-green algae blooms.

Edible Fish?

Yes, most Lake Champlain fish generally are safe to eat, but consult the fish consumption advisories to learn the details.
Management of the fish population in the Lake Champlain Basin has been mostly successful in recent years - fishing has never been better in human memory. Sea lamprey control has achieved acceptable rates of wounding of Atlantic salmon, although this has been at the cost of introducing lampricides into our waterways and the Lake. Fish consumption advisories for mercury remain for many species, but mercury concentrations in walleye and lake trout have dropped 50% in the past 15 years.

Drinkable Water?

Yes, Lake Champlain is a source of very high quality drinking water, though only treated water is recommended for consumption.
Relatively simple treatment is the norm for public water supplies in the Lake Champlain Basin, and the finished water is of very good quality. Public water suppliers very rarely need to shut down distribution due to source water quality.

Top | Next Page | Home