Lake Whatcom is not only a nearby environmental and recreational treasure, but it is also the source of drinking water for 100,000 Whatcom County residents. While the Lake is still relatively clean, and drinking water quality is high, human activities in and around the Lake have fed worrisome trends. Currently, the Lake is listed by the State Department of Ecology as an impaired water body for excessive phosphorus, and some of the streams entering the lake have been contaminated with fecal coliform bacteria. Excessive phosphorus supports growth of algae, depletes oxygen, and can have an impact on drinking water quality and cost. Data on Lake health can be viewed in the Lake Whatcom Annual Reports produced by the Institute for Watershed Studies at Western Washington University.
Extensive residential development in parts of the watershed, coupled with the Lake's popularity for recreation, create unique challenges. The Lake Whatcom Management Program, involving the City of Bellingham, Whatcom County, and the Lake Whatcom Water and Sewer District, supports a wide range of programs to improve the Lake and manage its watershed. The Bellingham City Council approves the budget for and provides oversight of the City of Bellingham Lake Whatcom Program. Council members also participate in a multijurisdictional Lake Whatcom Policy Group to review or identify watershed-wide solutions. Current Lake Whatcom activities include investments in public stormwater projects to filter phosphorus out of groundwater and an Aquatic Invasive Species program offering education and boat inspections to stop the spread of destructive non-native plants and animals. Homeowners are being asked to participate in the solution, and a Homeowner Incentive Program (HIP) has been created to encourage lake-friendly landscaping at existing homes. The City and County Councils and the Lake Whatcom Water and Sewer District Board met to hear about Lake Whatcom program activities and accomplishments at the Lake Whatcom Joint Councils and Commission Annual Meeting held on March 29, 2017.
Lake Whatcom Policy Group
Representatives from the Bellingham City Council, Whatcom County Council, the Lake Whatcom Water and Sewer District Board, and the Sudden Valley Community Association Board meet periodially to discuss policy issues affecting the lake. Summaries and recordings from these meetings are linked here.