Explore the Lake Champlain Basin

Your environment – the land, river, streams and lakes – all work together to process, filter and otherwise manage rainwater.

Over time, these areas can be polluted, erode, or otherwise fill with sediment or other materials, causing both short and long-term problems in the environment.

What is a Watershed?

Learn about what makes up a watershed and how stormwater runoff affects the stream, rivers, and Lake Champlain.

A watershed is an area of land that drains all the streams and rainfall to a common outlet such as the outflow of a reservoir, mouth of a bay, or in this case, Lake Champlain. The word watershed is sometimes used interchangeably with drainage basin or catchment.

A watershed is an area of land that drains all the streams and rainfall to a common outlet such as the outflow of a reservoir, mouth of a bay, or in this case, Lake Champlain. The word watershed is sometimes used interchangeably with drainage basin or catchment.

The watershed consists of surface water–lakes, streams, reservoirs, and wetlands–and all the underlying ground water.

 Larger watersheds contain many smaller watersheds. It all depends on the outflow point; all of the land that drains water to the outflow point is the watershed for that outflow location.

There are actually 11 different sub-basin or smaller watersheds, that feed into the Lake Champlain watershed. Some of the smaller watersheds are on the New York side of Lake Champlain, some are on the Vermont side, and some extend into Canada.

Watersheds are often separated by hills, mountains, or other geographic features.

Rain and snow melt is commonly referred to as stormwater. Any stormwater not absorbed by the ground flows into the stream and rivers, carrying with it pollutants and dirt it picks up along the water. As it travels through the streams and rivers, some of the pollutants and dirt remains in the streams and rivers.

Over time, the streams and rivers carry stormwater to Lake Champlain.  The stormwater carried into Lake Champlain brings with it the pollutants and dirt.

Water that is absorbed by the ground is often filtered before it reached groundwater deposits. This groundwater also feeds into the lake underground via percolation.

By decreasing the amount of stormwater that flows directly into streams and rivers, you can help reduce the pollutants and dirt in streams, rivers, and Lake Champlain.

Stream Monitoring

As part of our monitoring, each year we ask volunteers to monitor “impaired” streams, stream that are at-risk for pollution or other problems. We test for phosphorus, choloride and turbidity (how cloudy the water is).

Learn More about Stream Monitoring

Stream Storytelling

Last year,  we asked our volunteers to record their experiences when visiting our monitored streams: what they saw, how they felt.

Read their thoughts, and see their photos in our Google Earth Project.

Visit Stream Storytelling

For Kids

We’ve included science experiments that are easy and simple to do with your children that highlight the impact of stormwater runoff and how it can affect the lake.

About Algae Blooms

Cyanobacteria, or blue-green algae, are photosynthetic bacteria that occur naturally in waters used for recreation, such as swimming and waterskiing.

Certain environmental conditions, such as elevated levels of nutrients, warmer temperatures, still water, and plentiful sunlight can promote the growth of cyanobacteria to higher densities, forming algae blooms.
Learn more about algae blooms and what you can do to help prevent them.