|China Lake is a precious resource for the Central Maine community. Not only is a great recreational spot and a habitat for wildlife, it’s also the drinking water source for the Greater Waterville area. Please click the video or continue reading below to find out more about China Lake and what you can do to help keep it clean.
The Kennebec Water District has used China Lake as its source of supply since 1905. China Lake, covering an area of 6.1 square miles and a maximum depth of 85 feet, holds about 31.7 billion gallons of fresh water. The intake is located in the West Basin of China Lake. The West Basin is largely undeveloped due to the Kennebec Water District’s ownership of these lands for over 100 years. This limited development helps protect the water from contamination.
Watershed Based Plan
As part of a multi-agency effort to preserve the water quality of China Lake, an update to the Watershed Based Management Plan was completed in March of 2022. This plan provides many high level recommendations to help restore water quality over the next 10-year period though addressing existing phosphorus sources, addressing new phosphorus sources, addressing internal phosphorus sources, education and outreach, building local capacity, and long-term monitoring. The full plan can be found below:
The Kennebec Water District also developed a Forest Management Plan in 2019 in conjunction with Comprehensive Land Technologies (CLT) located in China, Maine. This plan evaluated the current condition of the land around China Lake, outlined the goals the Kennebec Water District has for the land, and made recommendations on how to maintain the forest to protect water quality. To follow up on this plan, KWD hired CLT in 2021 to develop a harvesting plan for the South Peninsula at the narrows between the West and East basins of the lake.
These plans can be found here:
Laws Protecting China Lake
Three State of Maine laws explicitly protect China Lake to help the Kennebec Water District maintain high quality drinking water:
- 1931 Pollution Prevention Act– This law prohibits direct human contact with the water in the West Basin of China Lake. The focus of this statute is to protect public health by preventing the spread of pathogenic (disease causing) bacteria, viruses, and parasites. Persons violating this law are subject to a fine.
(Chapter 67, Public Laws of the State of Maine, 1931)
- 1969 Pollution Prevention Act – This law has two primary components focused on minimizing pollution:
- Issuance of Septic System Permits – Multiple sections of this statute contain procedures for issuance of septic system permits by KWD. However, with the adoption of the statewide subsurface wastewater disposal rules in 1974, KWD passed the authority to issue septic system installation permits to the Local Plumbing Inspectors of the towns of Vassalboro and China.
- No Trespassing on KWD Lands – Prohibiting trespassing on KWD’s watershed land (principally land around the West Basin) reduces the risk of damage to trees and other vegetation which can lead to soil erosion.
Due to staffing constraints, KWD’s surveillance activities are generally limited. However, when KWD staff observe vegetation removal or damage, or personal property is found on KWD land, necessary action will be taken to prevent additional damage and, where appropriate, to secure restitution.
While this no trespassing law limits access to China Lake, KWD provides land to the Town of Vassalboro to maintain a parking area for the boat launch located off Rt. 32 in East Vassalboro as well as a small, free to use, water access only, picnic area on the southerly tip of the North Peninsula of the lake.
(Chapter 120, Public Laws of the State of Maine, 1969)
- Intake Restricted Zone Law – This law establishes a closed or restricted zone around the KWD’s water intake area in the West Basin. In this closed area, designated by a series of buoys placed in the water, trespassing is prohibited. Human activity near the water intake increases the risk of contaminants in the water including bacteria, viruses, parasites, petroleum products, and other contaminants. Just as important, the restricted area protects the vital infrastructure located below the water’s surface from being damaged by boats, fishing, equipment, or other activities.
(Title 22, Subtitle 2, Part 5, Chapter 601, Subchapter 4, Article 2, §2648, State of Maine Revised Statutes)
If you are interested in more information on the water quality within China Lake please review the monitoring data from Lake Stewards of Maine at https://www.lakestewardsofmaine.org/ or contact the Kennebec Water District’s Director of Water Quality at 207-861-4368.