Learn more below about Threats to Water Quality, Clean Water Funding, the Economic Value of Water, Total Maximum Daily Loads, Tactical Basin Planning, Nature-Based Solutions, how Climate Change affects clean water, information about Vermont Dairy Farms and Water Quality, and what efforts others are doing across the state.
Select a Category below to learn more.
Threats to Water Quality
Clean water is essential to Vermont’s economy, culture, environment and aquatic habitats that many different species rely on. There are a variety of different threats that can cause harm to these ecosystems including microplastics, pharmaceuticals, and invasive species. Another key issue is all of the different types of pollution that get into the water from our landscapes. Lake Champlain has a very large area of land that drains into the lake, so it is important to pay attention to what is happening on shore as well as in the water. The main types of pollutants are nutrients, toxic substances, bacteria, and soil. There are two different types of sources that pollution can come from, point and nonpoint. Point source pollution comes from a clear source that can be easily distinguished while non-point sources are areas where pollution comes from across a landscape, usually in the form of runoff.
Point sources: industrial plants, sewage treatment plants, storm drains.
Non-Point sources: farms, residential areas, golf courses, forests, roads, streambanks, construction sites, parking lots, and plowed fields.
Blue-Green Algae You may have seen beach closures or green algae films covering water bodies in the past. This is often caused by something called Cyanobacteria, or blue-green algae, that grows when excess nutrients enter the water in combination with warm weather and still water. In Lake Champlain, and around Vermont, there are blue-green algae blooms throughout the summer that can cause harm to people, the environment and the local and regional economy. It is important to know that not all algae blooms are blue-green algae and not all blooms are toxic. There are a few common water plants that can be easily confused with algae. Some common ones are duckweed, pollen, and other types of algae.
If your sighting is none of the above and you believe it is algae bloom you can report it
Learn more about the status of blue-green algae blooms around Vermont
In April 2019, the State of Vermont reached an agreement with Saint-Gobain Performance Plastics, the owner of a Bennington Teflon coating factory, to pay for access to clean municipal drinking water for hundreds of residents with contaminated with Perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA).
PFOA is part of a class of chemical compunds known as PFAs (a broad group of perfluoroalkyl and polyfluoroalkyl substances). PFAs have been used for years in the manufacturing of products such as carpet protectant, non-stick cookware, and firefighting foams.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) found PFOA in in the blood of 98% of Americans, as well as in breast milk and umbilical cord blood. While the health effects are hotly debated, evidence has linked exposure to some PFAs to developmental issues, cancer, liver damage, immune system disruption, resistance to vaccines, thyroid disease, impaired fertility and high cholesterol.
In Vermont, The Vermont Agency of Natural Resources is working with the Vermont Department of Health to continue to identify sources and reduce the use, release and public exposure of these substances.
Learn more here.
Vermont Conservation Voters (VCV) is working on initiatives that strengthen legal remedies to help Vermonters who have been exposed to these and other hazardous chemicals.
Microplastics Microplastics are becoming more common and understood in different water systems
around us. By definition, microplastics are pieces of plastic less than 5 mm in size. These can come from different sources such as manufactured pieces like microbeads or when larger pieces of plastics break down into smaller particles. We should pay attention to these because they can contain harmful chemicals such as BPA and PCBs. They also can be consumed by different animals and then accumulated higher up in the food chain, all the way up to humans.
How can we help?
• Reuse plastic or bring your own containers or mugs!
• Reduce use and washing of fleeces or other clothing containing plastics.
• Get involved with shore cleanups or other initiatives.
here for other ways to reduce microplastics that you can do!
Learn more about this and other water outreach and research at
Lake Champlain Sea Grant.
Clean Water Funding
Click here for Clean Water Grant opportunities from the Vermont Agency of Natural Resources.
In 2019 the Governor signed Act 76 to provide clean water
funding and improve distribution of funds.
Learn about the law by watching this video.
The Vermont Clean Water Initiative Annual Investment Report, prepared by the Vermont Secretary of Administration, is an annual report series summarizing state investments to address priority water quality problems across Vermont.
• Vermont Clean Water Initiative Annual Investment Reports
The Office of the State Treasurer, in partnership with the Department of Environmental Conservation, the Department of Taxes and other state agencies, submitted a report to the State Legislature in early January 2017, recommending how to fund water quality improvements in Vermont.
• The Office of the State Treasurer Clean Water Report.
Economic Value of Water
A stimulated outdoor recreation economy directly supports related businesses and organizations in Vermont. It also contributes to healthy communities and individuals, the enhancement of the Vermont lifestyle and the Vermont brand, increased connection to nature and attraction of high quality employers and a sustainable workforce in all economic sectors.
The Vermont Outdoor Recreation Economic Collaborative (VOREC) steering committee is made up of Vermont businesses and non-profits including outdoor manufacturers, retailers, brand representatives, trail and user groups and conservation organizations, as well as state government. The committee aims to engage with businesses, government, the nonprofit sector and the public to promote business opportunities, increase participation opportunities, and strengthen the quality and stewardship of our recreational resources.
The regional economy, quality of life and tourism rely on clean water within the Lake Champlain Basin. In 2015, the Lake Champlain Basin Program (LCBP) published an assessment that explores the relationship between water quality and property valuation, tourism expenditures and regional economic activity at various scaled.
You may have heard that an excess of nutrients, like phosphorus, in waterways impair water quality. Phosphorus can enter waterways via stormwater runoff containing chemicals used on farmland or in households, animal manure and other harmful agents. Too much phosphorus encourages algae growth that not only disturbs the ecosystem and turns the water yellow or green, but also can become toxic to people and pets. So, in an effort to reduce phosphorus loading Vermont adopted a Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL). A TMDL places a cap on the maximum amount of phosphorus that is allowed to enter the Lake and still meet Vermont's water quality standards.
Lake Champlain TMDL
We depend on Lake Champlain for drinking water, recreation, tourism and an attractive selling point for new businesses that stimulate the local economy. In June 2016, the US EPA released new phosphorus pollution limits for Lake Champlain by establishing TMDLs for twelve Vermont segments of Lake Champlain. For more information visit the documents below:
Lake Memphremagog TMDL
Lake Champlain is not the only body of water in need of a TMDL. Lake Memphremagog is an international waterbody with over 73% of its surface area in Quebec, while 27% is in Vermont. The Quebec Vermont Steering Committee is currently negotiating a TMDL plan for phosphorus management.
Long Island Sound TMDL Workgroup (CT River)
Phosphorus isn't the only perpetrator for water quality, excess nitrogen can be just as devastating. In the Connecticut River and Long Island Sound, excess nitrogen has caused hypoxia, or a lake environment with very little oxygen for the organisms who inhabit it. To address this issue, the Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection (CTDEEP) and New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (NYSDEC) developed a TMDL Analysis.
The Nature Conservancy is participating in the clean up of Lake Champlain through an interactive map called the Water Quality Blueprint. This web-based map prioritizes the restoration and protection of landscapes, such as wetlands, floodplain forests and river corridors, that naturally filter out pollutants before they get to the water. The tool is intended to help our watershed managers, conservation practitioners and other stakeholders to focus on natural infrastructure investments that provide the most benefit to water quality in the Lake Champlain Basin.
How to Use the Water Quality Blueprint:
Green Stormwater Infrastructure Bike Tour
As part of their outreach and education work Lake Champlain Sea Grant, along with the University of Vermont Extension, have created bike tours that feature different green stormwater infrastructure features throughout the community. These features include rain gardens, green roofs, permeable pavement, and other types of similar installations.
There are two different locations for these bike tours:
Rutland. Learn about the paper copy pick up locations and more at their website.
Clean Water & Climate Change
High Meadows Fund
The High Meadows Fund promotes vibrant communities and a healthy natural environment while encouraging long term economic vitality in Vermont through supporting leadership and innovation in three major areas: Land use, Clean and Efficient Energy, and Farm, Food and Forest Enterprises. For more information and examples of their work, watch the video or visit their
Vermont Roadmap to Resilience
In 2013, the Institute for Sustainable Communities released Vermont’s Roadmap to Resilience in the wake of the disaster Hurricane Irene caused. The report offers 23 recommendations for advancing the community, economic and environmental resilience of our state. The recommendations were developed through an 18-month stakeholder engagement process.
Draft of the Road to Resilience
Between February and May 2013, three working groups met to identify strategies and approaches to build resilience in Vermont. The groups addressed three key areas that had been identified during our October 2012 meeting: Emergency Management, Resilient Landscapes and Communities, and Infrastructure and the Built Environment.
The Vermont Agency of Agriculture Food and Markets (AAFM) Water Quality Division is responsible for adminstering the Vermont Agricultural Nonpoint Source Pollution Control Program.Learn more about the Division's work here.Vermont Dairy Water Collaborative
In 2019, 22 citizen-leaders worked together as the Vermont Dairy Water Collaborative to learn, articulate a shared vision and goals, and call upon Vermonters to act in the face of the crisis in dairy and in water quality.
Read the group's
“Call to Action” and eight detailed recommendations.
30+ page compilation of the group's work, including the vision and goal statement, the reports of the three working groups, and an outline of the four learning sessions.