Fresh water beaches project

Margo Kenyon, a junior majoring in Environmental Policy at Colby College, is working with Maine Lakes this summer to research the feasibility of creating a bacteria monitoring program for public freshwater swim locations. Her project aims to determine the need for such a program, how it might operate and be funded, and if it could be modeled after and operate like the DEP’s Maine Healthy Beaches program for coastal, saltwater beaches. She is working with staff at Maine Lakes, Lake Stewards of Maine, and the Department of Environmental Protection, and talking to municipalities, agencies, individuals, and lake association leaders to find where our public beaches are and how they are currently managed.

our concerns about maine's fresh water beaches

Why are we concerned about bacteria at freshwater swim areas? Over the past 20 years, Maine has experienced summers with more days with above-average temperatures compared to the previous 100 years. Freshwater temperatures track closely with air temperatures, and thus have also warmed considerably. People seek out local freshwater swimming areas to escape the heat, and more people crowding into freshwater swim locations can increase the presence of disease-causing pathogens in the water. 

Warmer water temperatures allow those pathogens to grow and persist in the environment compared to colder water. Sheltered, slow-moving swimming areas may have stagnant water during high-use periods, as water flushing and dilution in lakes and slow-moving rivers is often insufficient at dispersing bacteria during periods of hot, calm weather, which is often when recreation pressure is the greatest. 

Testing for the fecal indicator bacteria E. coli, which is harmful to human health but also an indicator of fecal waste and possible disease-causing pathogens from warm blooded organisms, including humans, is a means of protecting public health and adapting to Maine’s changing climate. 


As part of the project’s initial research, an electronic survey has been created to gather information about public freshwater swimming locations, current monitoring activities, and local contacts. Participation in the survey is greatly encouraged and very much appreciated. Any additional questions/comments/suggestions may be left at the end of the survey or sent to Margo at

Take the survey

Thank you

This project benefited from a Giving While Living Grant from the Woodard and Curran Foundation, and from the generous support of the Maine Outdoor Heritage Fund