Approximately 90,000 people, equivalent to about half of Whatcom county residents, receive their drinking water from Lake Whatcom. Most of us here in beautiful Bellingham mindlessly fill our cups full of what we perceive and trust to be clean, pristine water. The reality is, Lake Whatcom’s water quality has a history that strays far from such a description. In 1998 the lake was placed on our state’s list of polluted water bodies and on the federal Clean Water Act 303(d) list. The primary reason for the lake’s placement on both of these lists was its inability to meet state water quality standards due to increasing phosphorus and fecal coliform bacteria and consequently low levels of dissolved oxygen. Ultimately there has remained the same trend of low levels of oxygen to this day. The organization Whatcom Watch claims that warmer temperatures cause Lake Whatcom’s three basins to thermally stratify sooner and for longer. This is significant because higher concentrations of metals such as mercury and phosphorus will continue to build up and ultimately require more treatment to make the water safe for drinking.
As we enter this hot summer season, let us all be reminded of our impact on our watershed. Store products containing nitrogen or phosphorus inside where they are safe from entering the water we all mindlessly consume.