Let's Be Clear

Clean Lakes are good for Maine's environment and economy. 



Property Values

$13.3 Billion



summer camps

$15 million



recreation

$501 Million



water consumption

$334 million

Investing in lake protection has never been more
important for Maine’s environment and economy.

Why are lakes at risk?

Maine’s lakes are increasingly at risk from new environmental and development pressures. Climate change is raising water temperatures, lengthening growing seasons, and fostering more intense storms that carry more runoff into lakes. These conditions fuel algae growth, invasive species spread, and public health risks . More people moving to Maine’s lakeshores, especially since the pandemic, has increased development pressure and demands on lakeshore properties
throughout the state.

How do we measure economic impact?

Researchers at the University of Maine used data from a wide variety of sources along with a survey of 768 Mainers to determine estimates for both economic value and annual economic spending in four lake-related sectors (lakefront summer camps, lakefront property, recreational lake use, and lake-based public drinking water sources). The total value across the sectors is $14.1 billion, with value defined as the benefit generated above and beyond what we spend to
travel to and use lake-resources, while the annual spending (both direct and indirect) totals another $3 billion.

Lake Front Property

The $13.3 billion in cumulative value of Maine’s lakefront property (and the $865 million in spending) is influenced by water quality. A one-foot decrease in water clarity (generally associated with nutrient and other pollution) will decrease the value of Maine homes located within 1,000 feet of the lakeshore by an average of 1.1%. For towns like Belgrade that generate most of their tax revenue from shorefront properties, a decline in water quality will result in
major losses in that revenue.

Estimate based on hedonic pricing analysis applied to sales data for lakefront homes purchased between 2017 and 2022.

Lake Front Summer Camps

The 145 summer camps in Maine serve 60,000
campers from in and out of state each summer. The 75% of these camps that are located on lakes are valued at $15 million. Estimates of direct spending (fees and travel costs for families and campers) are at least $170 million per year, with additional indirect spending totaling another $156 million.

Estimate based on average cost per camper per week plus estimated travel expenditures to and from camp.

.

Recreation

Lake recreation value associated with taking trips to participate in activities such as swimming, boating, and fishing totals $501 million each year. Recreationists report good water quality and safety from bacterial contamination as the most important considerations when choosing a lake. A moderate decline in water quality is predicted to reduce total recreation use value by 6% or $33 million per year. *Estimate based on 768 respondents to a 2023 lake use and expenditure survey. 

water consumption

$126 million in public drinking water is sourced from Maine lakes each year and supplies half of the state’s population. Maine lakes hold 20% of all EPA filtration waivers in the country, meaning that our water quality is high enough to drink safely without  filtration. Degradation of surface water sources can be costly for towns and taxpayers. Last summer, declining water quality in Lake Auburn put the city of Auburn at risk of losing its waiver and of having to construct a $35 million filtration plant instead. *Estimate based on 2020 Annual Reports to the Maine Public Utilities Commission.

summer camps

The 145 summer camps in Maine serve 60,000 campers from in and out of state each summer. The 75% of these camps that are located on lakes are estimated to generate a value of at least $170 million per year through fees and travel costs that families pay. Additional economic activity from running summer camps (supplies, salaries, meals, etc.) only adds to this figure. *Estimate based on average cost per camper per week plus estimated travel expenditures to and from camp.

lakefront property values

Maine’s lakefront homes have a cumulative value of more than $13.3 billion, and water quality can impact lakefront property values. A one-foot decrease in water clarity, which is associated with nutrient and other pollution, will decrease the value of Maine homes located within 1,000 ft of the lakeshore by an average of 1.1%. For towns like Belgrade that generate the majority of their tax revenue from shorefront properties, a decline in water quality will result in major losses in that revenue. *Estimate based on hedonic pricing analysis applied to sales data for lakefront homes purchased between 2017 and 2022.

Legislative action

Legislative action is vital for protecting the quality and value of Maine’s lakes.

Support strong shoreland zoning rules that protect shoreline health and water quality. Support lake funding bills that bring much needed revenue to fight invasive species spread and treat harmful algal blooms. Support common-sense regulation of boating, fishing, and other recreational activity that prioritizes lake and habitat protection. For a list of current lake-related bills in the Maine Legislature, visit www.lakes.me/advocacy

To receive copies of final reports, publications and outreach materials resulting from this collaborative study, please send an email to info@lakes.me.

Other resources

Flyer: Let's Be Clear. Clean Lakes are Good for Maine's Environment and Economy

Executive Summary Webpage: Valuing the Economic Benefits of Maine’s Great Ponds in the 21st Century, Dr. Adam Daigneault, Melissa Genoter, Dr. Jianheng Zhao, Dr. Keith Evans, University of Maine, Susan Gallo, Maine Lakes,, Linda Bacon, Maine Department of Environmental Protection, April 1, 2024

Poster: Communicating the Value of Maine Lakes
Melissa Genoter, University of Maine,, School of Forest Resources & Ecology and Environmental Science Program

Slideshow: Valuing the Economic Benefits of Maine’s Great Ponds in the 21st Century, Dr. Jianheng Zhao, Dr. Adam Daigneault, Dr. Keith S. Evans, Melissa Genoter, University of Maine, Susan Gallo, Maine Lakes, Linda Bacon, Maine Dept. of Env. Protection