Clean drinking water and great beer. In the Lewiston-Auburn area, we are lucky enough to have both — and that is not a coincidence.

Lauren Olson

The average beer is more than 90 percent water, and the characteristics of the local water supply — the pH, mineral content and purity — are central to the quality of each brew. Both our drinking water and the water used by local breweries come from Lake Auburn, which is one of the cleanest sources of drinking water in the country.

The quality of the water in Lake Auburn is so clean that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has granted the Auburn Water District and the city of Lewiston, Water Division, a waiver from filtration, which allows the two agencies to keep costs down for their customers. However, to keep this waiver, the water quality must remain exceptional.

Polluted run-off is the biggest threat to Maine lakes, with 122 of our lakes and ponds at risk for dangerous algal blooms. The only absolute method to keep these pollutants out of our drinking water is to prevent them from entering the source in the first place. In other words, it is a lot easier to keep a water source clean than it is to clean it up once it has been polluted. That is why we have been partnering with local breweries, including Side by Each Brewing Company, Baxter Brewing Company and Bear Bones Beer, along with the Maine Brewshed Alliance, to raise awareness about keeping our local water source — the main ingredient for our local craft breweries — clean.

About two-thirds of Lake Auburn’s water flows through rivers and streams before entering the lake. As water flows across the surface of the land, it picks up and carries with it whatever it encounters; including pollutants and nutrients, like phosphorous, which can lead to algae blooms and other pollution problems. We need to do what we can to limit these pollutants entering our lake.

One of the ways that the Lake Auburn Watershed Protection Commission works to maintain good water quality in Lake Auburn is through community education and outreach efforts. By working with the Lewiston-Auburn area community, we are hoping to spread the word about our efforts to keep Lake Auburn a clean and reliable drinking water source for all, and to engage people in watershed stewardship.

With programs like LakeSmart, a shoreline assessment program working to slow pollutant runoff into the lake and other bodies of water in our watershed, and our educational events that partner with local organizations like L/A Art Walk, Bear Bones Beer and the Good Food Council of Lewiston and Auburn, we are hoping to reach a wide variety of audiences that all have something in common — a shared source of tap water.

We also need to maintain funding for programs that help to identify and address sources of run-off, including funding that comes to the state of Maine from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Maine’s Department of Environmental Protection receives nearly $2 million annually to assess threats to water quality and address runoff pollution.

But funding has remained relatively flat in recent years and proposals have been made to eliminate that funding completely. Cuts to the EPA’s budget threaten the water resources we depend on. That is why we are relying on the continued leadership of the Maine congressional delegation to fully-fund those vital environmental protection programs.

Unexpected changes in water quality due to pollution would increase costs to consumers, threaten our public health and impact our local breweries.

From local businesses to local residents, we all need reliable sources of clean water. We must work together collaboratively to keep Lake Auburn as one of the most pristine lakes in the country.

Lauren Olson is a member of the Lake Auburn Watershed Protection Commission, Education and Outreach.

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