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Cape Cod Freshwater Initiative seeks to protect and restore local freshwater resources

Cape Cod’s ponds and lakes are dynamic natural systems that contribute to the region’s identity. Unfortunately, human activities in and around them increasingly threaten the health of these fragile ecosystems. The Regional Policy Plan identifies the health of Cape Cod’s freshwater ponds and lakes as a critical challenge facing the region, calling for an updated and expanded understanding of freshwater resources data.

The Cape Cod Commission has begun work on the Cape Cod Freshwater Initiative, a science-based, information-driven planning process to engage stakeholders and enable action to protect and restore Cape Cod’s freshwater resources. The effort is supported by $2,493,028 in funding approved by the Barnstable County Assembly of Delegates and Board of Regional Commissioners.

Through this initiative, the Cape Cod Commission and its partners will complete an analysis of available monitoring data, assess the overall health of Cape Cod’s ponds and lakes, identify regional trends in water quality, and evaluate the impact of these critical resources on the region’s economy.

“Ponds are an important piece of Cape Cod's interconnected water resources,” said Kristy Senatori, Cape Cod Commission Executive Director. “The Freshwater Initiative will help us better understand the current state of our ponds and how we can better and more efficiently take action to improve water quality and prevent further degradation.”

The Freshwater Initiative’s robust work plan includes investigating the use of satellite-derived imagery and existing pond water quality data to quantify changes in pond characteristics; managing and maintaining accessible pond monitoring datasets and providing on-demand trend analyses through a web-based interface; assessing, through the use of GIS and other data sources, characteristics that may contribute to changes in water quality, and determining potential internal and external drivers of water quality degradation.

Work also includes researching a range of technologies, regulatory and voluntary options, and management approaches for protecting and restoring pond water quality and developing an accessible pond-specific strategies database; conducting an economic analysis to better understand the costs, benefits, and tradeoffs of particular strategies as well as the cost of no action; and engaging stakeholders to develop a framework for local and regional action.

This effort will be informed by the 2021 Cape Cod Pond and Lake Atlas and will define a path forward for improving freshwater quality across the region.

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