Managing lands for high quality water: Kennebec Water District’s Watershed Management

photo by Eric W. Austin

by Robbie Bickford,
Water Quality Manager,
Kennebec Water District

The Kennebec Water District (KWD) will be hosting a public informational meeting at 5:30 p.m., on Wednesday, December 1, 2021, at the KWD Water Treatment Plant, at 462 Main Street, in Vassalboro, to review the Forest Management Plan and the South Narrows Peninsula Harvest Plan. These are available for review on our website at:

China Lake (or “the Lake”) has been the sole source of supply for KWD since 1905. When the Lake was first used for drinking water, the land around the West Basin was heavily impacted by livestock pasturing and other agricultural activities. In 1909, seeing increasing development around China Lake, KWD began purchasing the shorefront land around the West Basin to protect the drinking water supply. Subsequently, thousands of trees were planted to reforest areas previously cleared for agricultural use.

Today, KWD owns approximately 344 acres of forested land in the China Lake watershed consisting of a nearly continuous, approximately 200-foot-wide, strip of land surrounding the West Basin and two larger plots of land known as the North and South Narrows Peninsulas.

To ensure that KWD’s watershed lands are managed to prompt the highest possible water quality in the Lake, KWD has contracted with Comprehensive Land Technologies, Inc. (CLT), of China, to assess the health of the forested land and develop a Forest Management Plan. Parts of this plan provide recommendations for improving the health of the forest through selective harvesting to prompt an uneven-aged, mixed species forest.

An uneven-aged, mixed species forest has been found to be the most effective buffer to limit erosion and to trap nutrients and contaminants in runoff as well as providing a more resilient forest to a multitude of pests and other adverse conditions.

In winter of 2021-2022 KWD anticipates conducting a selective harvest of the South Narrows Peninsula stand to promote new healthy growth and develop an uneven-aged, mixed species forest. This harvesting will have the primary goal of protecting and enhancing the water quality of the Lake as its focus and any harvesting activities will strictly adhere to industry “Best Management Practices” to minimize the impact on the land and lake water quality.

As always, KWD is committed to preserving and enhancing the water quality of China Lake and this approach to active forest management is the next step in the long line of efforts to achieve this goal. Any questions about the public informational meeting on December 1, 2021, or KWD’s efforts in the China Lake Watershed can be directed to


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