PROVIDENCE – Freshwater sources, such as lakes and reservoirs, supply 74 percent of the state’s population with drinking water, yet 24 percent of these sources face pollutant problems.
The data was released by the Department of Environmental Management on Feb. 28 at a meeting of the local nonprofit Save The Lakes.
The pollution impairments include fish tissue contamination primarily due to mercury, nutrient enrichment, metals and pathogens. Algal blooms produced by naturally-occurring cyanobacteria and fueled by excess nutrients are also emerging as a water quality and public health issue.
Aquatic invasive plants are documented as a widespread problem. These plants create dense vegetative growth that deplete oxygen from the water and degrade its quality. A total of 13 different species have been found.
Among the report’s findings, Rhode Island has more than 237 lakes, ponds and reservoirs covering 20,749 acres. There are 43 reservoirs that are sources of public drinking water supplies. These reservoirs serve 11 public water systems.
“Our lakes and ponds supply drinking water for the majority of Rhode Island residents and are highly valued resources for active and passive recreation,” said DEM Director Janet Coit. “This report will help ensure an informed discussion as we work to protect the state’s freshwater resources.”
The report, entitled “Rhode Island Freshwater Lakes and Ponds: Aquatic Invasive Plants and Water Quality Concerns,” was prepared for the governor and the General Assembly.