The lakes are something which you are unprepared for; they lie up so high, exposed to the light, and the forest is diminished to a fine fringe on their edges, with here and there a blue mountain, like amethyst jewels set around some jewel of the first water, – so anterior, so superior, to all the changes that are to take place on their shores, even now civil and refined, and fair as they can ever be. ~Henry David Thoreau
There is so much more to lakes than the natural beauty and timeless majesty Thoreau described so acutely. Aside from the visual enjoyment and inspiration they provide, lake ecosystems support complex and important food web interactions and are also the cornerstone of our nation’s 19 billion dollar freshwater fishing industry, form the backbone of numerous tourism industries, and provide countless recreational opportunities. To top all of that off, lakes are also one of the largest sources of America’s drinking water. As rivers and streams empty into lakes or reservoirs, the water is then pulled from the lake and treated to meet society’s demands.
It’s impossible to determine exactly how many lakes are in the United States. Not including man-made reservoirs, there are tens of thousands, if not hundreds of thousands of lakes of innumerable shapes, sizes and depths. Some are freshwater lakes, others contain saltwater. Regardless of size and location, when lakes and reservoirs cover over 39.9 million acres, it’s easy to understand why this is a major water resource for the US.
And, as Thoreau put it, with lakes as “fair as they can ever be,” it’s important to maintain the integrity of such a practical and beautiful resource. Next week we’ll look at protecting our source water lakes, not only under the Clean Water Act, but as a part of the water treatment process.