Worcester's Water Quality Challenges
Worcester's industrial history, as well as more recent urbanization, poses challenges to maintaining the quality of the water in the City's lakes and ponds. Major threats to our waterways include nutrient loading and invasive aquatic plants.
Nutrient loading is the addition of nutrients, mainly nitrogen and phosphorous, to our lakes and ponds. Excessive nutrients promote the growth of algae and aquatic plants, which can degrade the quality of water. Too much algal growth can decrease the oxygen content of water, leading to die offs of aquatic life. In addition, some algae can be harmful to human health. Invasive aquatic plants can crowd out local species and make it difficult to swim, boat or fish in lakes.
Nutrients enter our lakes in several ways. Runoff during rain events can carry nutrient-rich fertilizers and pet and geese waste into storm sewers or tributaries that empty into our lakes. Malfunctioning septic systems can leach nutrients into adjacent waters and homes and businesses misconnected to the storm sewer rather than the sanitary sewer can also contribute to the problem. Lake Quinsigamond and Indian Lake have been categorized by the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection as impaired for nutrient loading, meaning that they are at risk for the abovementioned problems.
Invasive aquatic plants are generally introduced by accident. Seeds or pieces of the plant will hitch a ride on a boat trailer, boots or an animal traveling between waterbodies. Once established, these plants can rapidly reproduce and be difficult eradicate. Coes Reservoir, Indian Lake and Lake Quinsigamond are currently struggling with invasive aquatic plants.