Clean Water
Matters!

The diverse ecosystems, working
landscapes, and vibrant communities
that inspire and sustain us depend on
clean water. Learn about pollution
reduction strategies.

Healthy Habitats
Connect Us All

Lakeshores, stream banks, and wetlands are critical to clean
water and biodiversity. Learn about efforts to improve
habitat connectivity in the Basin ecosystem.

We Care for
What We Know

Recreation fosters stewardship of the Basin’s rich
natural and cultural heritage by connecting people
to the landscape while supporting local economies.
Learn about ways to explore the Basin.

Informed Citizens
Make Wiser Choices

Citizens who have an understanding and
appreciation of water resources make informed
choices about actions that might contribute to
pollution. Learn about education programs.

    Water & Environment

    Did You Know?

    The world’s oldest known fossil reef containing coral is located in the Champlain Valley.
    Find out more

    Swimming Concerns

    children swimming

    Swimmers can generally enjoy Lake Champlain beaches with peace of mind. Photo: Rachel Bevins

    Swimming in Lake Champlain is normally safe. However, high concentrations of waterborne pathogens or toxins produced by cyanobacteria (blue-green algae) blooms occasionally can pose a risk to swimmers and other Lake users in localized areas. Some beaches are tested regularly during the summer months, and closed when a threat to human health is suspected.

    Pathogens

    These disease-causing bacteria, viruses, and parasites are present in human and animal waste. During rain events, runoff carries Escherichia coli (E. coli), giardia, cryptosporidiosis, and flatworms into streams and rivers and eventually Lake Champlain. Agricultural fields, faulty septic systems, and pet waste are common sources of pathogens. They greatest risk of pathogen exposure is in the days following large storms, when heavy rains cause combined sewer overflows (CSOs). During these events, sanitary sewer systems are overwhelmed by large volumes of water from storm sewers that enter through connected pipes. For this reason, swimmers should use caution following heavy rain and stay informed about local conditions, especially in the summer.

    E. Coli

    Pollution from E. coli bacteria is a common cause of beach closings along Lake Champlain. E. coli comes from animal waste, including that of humans, pets, livestock, birds, and wildlife. Dog droppings are one of the leading causes of E. coli pollution. Each gram of dog waste has over 20,000,000 E. coli colonies in it.

    Giardia and Cryptosporidiosis

    Giardia and cryptosporidiosis are gastrointestinal illnesses caused by parasites. Drinking untreated water and accidentally ingesting water while swimming are common causes. The greatest concern is contamination of private water supplies that do not filter their water. Hikers, paddlers, and other outdoor users should always boil, filter, or chemically treat water from unknown sources.

    Swimmer’s Itch

    Lake users occasionally report swimmers itch (cercarial dermatitis), a skin irritation caused by a free swimming stage of a fluke (a flatworm). The fluke lives part of its life cycle in snails and completes its life cycle in water birds. When water birds are not present, the fluke may burrow into a human’s skin, causing itching. No major outbreaks have been reported recently.

    Cyanobacteria Toxins

    Cyanobacteria blooms may produce harmful toxins that can cause gastrointestinal problems, skin irritation, and other symptoms when ingested. It is difficult to determine if a bloom contains toxins, which is why monitoring and an early warning system is critical. Cyanobacteria blooms have caused beach closures in Quebec on Missisquoi Bay.

    More on water quality and recreation

    What is the State of the Lake?

    What is the
    State of the Lake?

    Learn about the health of Lake Champlain in the 2015 State of the Lake report. Read about trends in key indicators of water quality and ecosystem health. Read the State of the Lake report

    Volunteers

    Make Some Waves

    From using lake-friendly cleaning products to volunteering with a local watershed group, you can help restore and protect the Lake Champlain Basin. Find out how you can get involved

    Track Our Progress

    Track Our Progress

    Explore the goals and actions of our partners and track our progress online with the Opportunities for Action website. View Opportunities for Action

    © 2017 Lake Champlain Basin Program
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    Lake Champlain Basin Program

    Lake Champlain Basin Program
    54 West Shore Road
    Grand Isle, VT 05458
    800-468-5227 (NY & VT)
    or 802-372-3213