The first and most logical step to ensuring quality water at the tap is to eliminate contaminations from entering the source. The Portland Water District's watershed protection program, recognized for effectiveness by the Governor, extends to the far reaches of the watershed. It is comprehensive since the lake is a multi-use lake enjoyed by thousands of residents and visitors every year.
2-Mile No Bodily Contact Zone 3000-Foot No Trespassing Zone
In 1913 the Maine Legislature recognized Sebago Lake as a drinking water supply for Greater Portland by passing a Private and Special Law prohibiting bodily contact within two miles of the intakes and prohibiting trespassing on District lands acquired "for the purpose of protecting the purity of the waters." Later amendments prohibit trespassing within 3000 feet of the intakes. Regular surveillance of Lower Bay ensures that these restrictions are enforced.
Land Acquisition or Establishment of Conservation Easements
The Portland Water District has been able to conserve nearly 2,500 acres of land around the Lower Bay. Although it has eminent domain authority, the Portland Water District acquires properties at market value from willing sellers and specifically is interested in the remaining parcels located inside the two-mile limit and at least partly within 500 feet of the shore.
Enforcement of Legal Controls on Development
Several important state and local laws and regulations are designed to protect water quality by controlling the scope and type of land development. The Private and Special Law for the protection of Sebago Lake requires that the Portland Water District approve the placement of "any cottage, stable, or other structure to be occupied by man or beast within 200 feet of the high water mark of the shores of Sebago Lake." All Maine lakes are further protected by the Mandatory Shoreland Zoning Act and the Natural Resources Protection Act.
Public Education and Outreach
Most people will modify their activities and practices to protect a lake if made aware of alternatives. Providing information about the state of the lake and lake friendly practices is a critical protection tool because so much human activity is not governed by the legal controls described above. Practices range from providing environmental education in local schools to visiting shorefront property owners during the summer.
Monitoring and Direct Actions
Water quality monitoring in Lower Bay has been ongoing since the inception of the District. Presently, more that 10 significant water quality monitoring programs are maintained.
Monitoring alone is not a protection effort. It is the response to monitoring that protects the source. When data reveal an existing or potential threat to water quality, the District takes steps to strengthen existing protections or incorporates new measures to safeguard the source. The Portland Water District maintains programs such as watershed property consultations and lake stewardship grants that help homeowners mitigate potential threats to water quality.