December 2, 2020|By Karen Young| Water

Diving Deep Into Clean Water Protection

Watershed = an area of land that feeds all the water running through it, under it,
and draining off of it into a localized body of water like a river or lake.

Canoeing on Keoka Lake a water body in Waterford, Maine, that is in the Sebago Lake watershed.Photo by Cait Bourgault.

Sebago Lake is one of only 50 surface drinking water supplies in the country that requires no filtration before treatment. Only 11% of the Sebago Lake watershed’s forests are conserved, making it one of the Northeast’s most vulnerable watersheds. To protect the region’s pure waters, Sebago Clean Waters set a goal to conserve an additional 35,000 acres of watershed forestland and to raise $15 million to support this conservation work.

Despite the challenges of 2020, we’ve made great strides toward meeting both of these goals. In June, The Conservation Fund announced its purchase of 15,413 acres from Chadbourne Tree Farms, LLC in Western Maine. With approximately 3,000 acres of the purchased land located within the Sebago Lake watershed, this effort accounts for nearly 10% of our 35,000-acre forestland conservation goal.

SCW TigerHill Monkman 1Photo by Jerry Monkman,

The Conservation Fund will manage the white pine timberland for the next several years, providing time for the organization and its major partners—Western Foothills Land Trust, Mahoosuc Land Trust, and Inland Woods + Trails—to raise the funding needed to permanently conserve it under mostly private ownership. We are thrilled that The Conservation Fund and our partner, Western Foothills Land Trust, are working together to protect the water quality and the enduring forest-based heritage of the region. Through innovative partnerships like these, we are better able to meet our goals.

And in September, Sebago Clean Waters, with Portland Water District as lead partner, was awarded an $8 million grant from USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS). The five-year Regional Conservation Partnership Program grant will support permanent forest conservation, land stewardship, aquatic invasive species control, stream connectivity, and landowner outreach and education in the Sebago Lake watershed. It will also allow Sebago Clean Waters' partners to leverage another $10.5 million from public and private sources to support these efforts.

As part of this new initiative, we are actively seeking additional business partners to help us sustain a healthy watershed. Sebago Lake watershed forests are essential not only for clean drinking water, but also for supporting a thriving local and state economy. Our recreation and tourism industries, as well as other businesses, rely on the pure water from Sebago Lake to produce high-quality products and support the health of their communities.

Breweries are a great example of businesses that depend on the purity of Sebago Lake water. It's widely known that clean water from the lake is the most important element in the great-tasting beer crafted in Portland-area breweries. Allagash Brewing Company and Rising Tide Brewing Company are two business partners that have recognized the importance of clean water to their communities and their success by donating ten cents per barrel of beer brewed to our efforts. We welcome the chance to partner with other forward-thinking businesses interested in protecting the watershed that is critical to their prosperity.

Recent investments from The Conservation Fund and NRCS will allow Sebago Clean Waters to increase the pace of conservation to avoid significant infrastructure costs and protect the watershed’s irreplaceable benefits. With additional support from individuals, communities, and businesses we can make even greater strides toward keeping the Sebago Lake watershed healthy.

While the story of Sebago Lake and our partnership coalition is unique, it can be used as a model to replicate success in other areas across the country. Protecting vulnerable forestland near and around our watersheds is a guaranteed way to also protect our water quality.

Learn more at and on Facebook and Instagram @sebagocleanwaters.

Conservation of Key Forestland
The Chadbourne Tree Farm property will be sustainably managed over the next several years, carrying on the Chadbourne family legacy of exemplary forest management practices. This conservation effort is part of The Conservation Fund’s Working Forest Fund®—an innovative program dedicated to mitigating climate change, strengthening rural economies, and protecting natural ecosystems through the permanent conservation of at-risk working forests across America.

Thirsty for more? The film For Beer’s Sake: Keeping Maine’s Brewshed Healthy explores how brewers and conservationists are looking to protect Maine’s Sebago Lake Watershed. It won the award for Best Maine Film at the 2020 Maine Outdoor Film Festival. Cheers to this excellent film!

Written By

Karen Young

Karen Young serves as the Coordinator of the Sebago Clean Waters initiative, an innovative nine-member coalition working to protect water quality, community well-being, a vibrant economy and wildlife habitat in the Sebago Lake watershed, the water supply for Maine’s largest urban area, through voluntary forest protection.  She previously served as Coordinator of the Mount Agamenticus to the Sea Conservation Initiative, another regional conservation partnership, and holds a Master of Environmental Management from Duke University’s Nicholas School of the Environment.