Water resources are a cornerstone of human and ecosystem sustainability. The viability of public water supplies hinges upon successful source protection efforts. Consequently, source protection is a basic knowledge to action process to sustain human and natural systems. We propose to evaluate the water resources sustainability of a large watershed system. This work is inspired by the pressing need for a scientific analysis and visualization tool that can focus and facilitate shared vision planning and deliberation of lake-level management strategies within the ongoing Utility-Water District-Stakeholder conversation.
Our focus will be on Sebago Lake, the second largest lake in Maine and source of drinking water for 170,000 people in the Portland area. It has been identified as the most vulnerable source watershed in the northeast region, which underlines the importance of understanding the impacts of development and management decisions on the system. Sebago Lake level is regulated by a dam at the outlet and the water quality impacts of different water level regimes is controversial and as yet unknown.
In concert with the PWD, our initial goal is to provide data-driven computational analysis and visualization tools that will aid prediction of lake levels and response to releases from the outlet dam, to an upstream dam that regulates input rates from the Crooked River, and to precipitation (or snow melt) events. Use of climate-driven seasonal forecasts and an assessment of their impact on adaptive dam operations decisions will be pursued. Discharge rates and local land use will be important components for estimating chemical loading to Sebago Lake in later phases of the modeling work, as will the effective visual communication of model results through gaming, collective building and scrutiny of scenarios.
Stemming from a joint scoping and problem identification exercise with the Portland Water District (PWD), our research will be responsive to a select set of solution needs: (i) a careful assessment of lake water budget using historical records and lake-watershed models, (ii) development of computational tools to support decision-making that integrates the physical processes and the lake management plans and schedules, and (iii) the delivery of scientific information using multimedia to enhance stakeholder participation.