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 fossil skeleton of a beluga whale was found in Charlotte, Vermont in 1849 - evidence that a cold inland sea filled the Champlain Valley after the Ice Age.
    Find out more

    Flooding

    Flooded street 2011

    2011 flooding

    The Lake Champlain Basin has a relatively wet climate, averaging 37.5 inches (95 cm) of precipitation throughout the year. On average, more precipitation falls in the summer and autumn than winter and spring months. High-intensity storms are not uncommon, particularly with the effects of climate change beginning to be felt in the Basin. These intense rain events can result in devastating flooding along river corridors and along the shoreline of Lake Champlain.

    The topography of much of the Basin consists of steep mountains and narrow river valleys. With little flat ground in these valley bottoms for floodplains to absorb overflow from swollen rivers, flash floods threaten homes and transportation corridors located in valleys. Heavy spring rains coupled with mountain snowmelt can cause the water levels to rise on Lake Champlain. Any lake elevation higher than 100 feet above mean sea level on Lake Champlain is considered to be at flood stage. Lake floods inundate low-lying areas and threaten lakefront residential property and shoreline infrastructure.

    Fig25-Otter-FloodplainAccess-2012_small

    Floodplain access in the Otter Creek watershed resulted in a lower peak flow downstream at Middlebury than in the upstream reach in Rutland during Tropical Storm Irene.

    Flooding is a natural process that has an important role in ecosystems and also can benefit human uses of the landscape. Flooding can replenish sediments and nutrients to floodplain soils, regenerating riparian vegetation and providing critical wildlife habitat, and also nourish soils that support agriculture along the Basin’s rivers. Flooding also can adjust streambeds and create new habitat for aquatic and riparian creatures by providing new wood material and other large debris to the streambed.

    However, these benefits can become serious threats in areas that have been substantially altered by human activity. Excess sedimentation on river and lake bottoms can smother critical habitat for certain species. Sediments and nutrients are washed off unvegetated landscapes, impacting water quality and increasing the eutrophication rate (aging) of lakes and ponds. Healthy wetlands and vegetated shorelines can reduce the negative impacts from these events.

    sediment plumes

    Sediment plumes from the Lamoille River, the Winooski River, and shoreline erosion from South Hero mix and drift south in the main lake during the spring 2011 flooding.

    In recent years, floods have appeared to cause more significant destruction in the Lake Champlain Basin, in part because more homes and infrastructure have been built in flood-prone areas around Lake Champlain and its tributaries. Scientists are studying the effects of these recurring floods on the ecosystem, and are trying to determine whether floods are happening more frequently due to climate change, infringement of development on floodplains, or some combination of many factors. We cannot stop floods from occurring; therefore we must minimize the damage they cause by moving people and buildings out from flood-prone areas and restoring wetlands and shorelines so they can serve as a natural buffer between humans and the waterways we treasure.

    More on Flooding

    For more information on the impacts of flooding, please visit the flooding risks section of our State of the Lake website.

    Monitor Lake Champlain levels at these USGS gaging stations:
    Burlington, VT | Whitehall, NY | Richelieu River at Rouses Point, NY

    Get Lake Champlain Flood Information from the National Weather Service.

    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
    Site design: Taylor Design
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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