Water Quality

Seymour Lake

‘Water quality’ means different things to different people. In the legal arena of the federal Clean Water Act, ‘water quality’ refers to the suitability of water for a specific purpose (called a ‘designated use’) based on a set of physical, chemical, and biological factors. Common designated uses of water include drinking, agriculture, industry, swimming, and boating. Water quality standards developed by each state, and approved by the EPA, identify designated uses for each water around the state. The standards also outline the physical, chemical, and biological characteristics that must be present for that water to meet its designated use.

People also use the term ‘water quality’ as a catch-all for the overall cleanliness and ‘health’ of water. This makes it easier to talk about big picture goals for water in general, but if we want to reach those goals, it is important to understand how the Clean Water Act and the Water Quality Standards work.

Vermont’s Water Quality Standards are reviewed and revised every 3 years. The current set of standards and the 2022 proposed revisions are available through the links below. Further information can also be found online here. The Vermont Department of Environmental Conservation (VT DEC) is responsible for maintaining and enforcing the Water Quality Standards. They also monitor and evaluate the quality of water across the state.

Learn More About the Clean Water Act and the federal Water Quality Standards

How Are Vermont’s Lakes and Ponds Doing?

The Lakes and Ponds Program (LLP) of the VT DEC’s Watershed Management Program is responsible for monitoring and evaluating the condition of the state’s lakes and ponds. Some monitoring data are collected by state staff. More data is provided by lake associations, volunteers, and others. Many of the lake associations in FOVLAP work with the LLP to collect data on their lake. (For more information, visit the Lakes and Ponds Program’s monitoring page).

The LLP maintains the Vermont Lake Scorecard. The Scorecard uses an easy-to-understand visual format to share water quality data from more than 800 Vermont lakes. It shares the current condition of the water as well as historical trends. Status with respect to the Vermont Water Standards is also provided, along with information on aquatic invasive species and surrounding land use.

Visit the Scorecard for your lake today!


What Are Important Water Quality Concerns in Vermont Lakes?

Data from Vermont lakes and ponds continues to show that we have some of the best water quality in the nation (see Gauging the Health of Vermont Lakes, VT DEC 2013). Still, there are threats to water quality that occur across the state. FOVLAP is learning all it can about these concerns and how to reduce their impacts.

Learn more about these water quality concerns:

What Can You Do To Protect Vermont’s Lakes and Ponds?

There are SO many things we can do to protect lakes and ponds in Vermont. Check out the resources below to learn how you can help!

The Lake Wise Program

The Stream Wise Program

Protect your local wetlands

Stop Aquatic Hitchhikers!

Learn about the Watershed planning process and the Tactical Basin Plan for your lake