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Cape Cod's 890 ponds cover nearly 11,000 acres. These ponds are extremely fragile. In keeping with the work done to protec the region's drinking water supplies and coastal ecosystems, the community needs to identify strategies to protect and restore these critical resources. The Cape Cod Freshwater Initiative is a science-based, information-driven planning process to engage stakeholders and enable action to protect and restore Cape Cod’s freshwater resources.

Cape Cod's ponds and lakes are dynamic natural systems that contribute to the region’s identity. Ponds and lakes are fragile ecosystems whose health is increasingly threatened by human activities in and around them. 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. 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.


Project Components


Remote Sensing 
Investigating the use of satellite-derived imagery and existing pond water quality data to quantify changes in pond characteristics

Data Management and Analysis
Developing freshwater monitoring database, processing scripts for trend analyses, and accessible user interface

Physical Characteristics
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

Pond and Lake Atlas Update
Completing an update to the 2003 Cape Cod Ponds and Lakes Atlas to serve as a resource for updated pond information and provide the basis for the Freshwater Initiative

Strategies Database
Developing a pond-specific strategies database that includes a range of technologies, regulatory and voluntary options, and management approaches for protecting and restoring pond water quality

Engagement and Outreach
Engaging stakeholders to develop a framework for identifying and implementing pond management strategies

Economic Analysis
Quantifying the costs and benefits of pond management strategies, including the cost of no action and the impacts of degraded freshwater quality on the regional economy

Legal and Jurisdictional Analysis
Reviewing federal and state laws relative to public and private interests in and around freshwater ponds, and identifying opportunities for local and regional action

Monitoring Program
Expanding pond monitoring to collect data necessary to support management decisions and track performance

Ongoing Data Management and Analysis
Managing and maintaining accessible pond monitoring datasets and providing on-demand trend analyses through a web-based interface


Click the images below to access the resources.

Cape Cod Ponds Profiles by Town

Cape Cod Pond and Lake Atlas cover

Cape Cod Pond Viewer graphic

Water Quality Data Portal graphic

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Cape Cod Regional Policy Plan cover
The Regional Policy Plan identifies the health of Cape Cod freshwater ponds and lakes as a key challenge facing the region, calling for an updated and expanded understanding of freshwater resources data. The recommended planning action includes updating the 2003 Cape Cod Pond and Lake Atlas. The regional need for an update to the Atlas is compounded by increasingly obvious declines in water quality in ponds across the region and an increase in public concern and interest.
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