Environment, Development and Sustainability

, Volume 15, Issue 3, pp 625-643

First online:

Land use and socioeconomic influences on a vulnerable freshwater resource in northern New England, United States

  • Firooza PavriAffiliated withDepartment of Geography-Anthropology, University of Southern Maine Email author 
  • , Anna SpringsteenAffiliated withDepartment of Ecology and Environmental Science, University of Maine
  • , Abraham DaileyAffiliated withCommunity Planning and Development, University of Southern Maine
  • , Jean D. MacRaeAffiliated withDepartment of Civil and Environmental Engineering, University of Maine

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Land use and cover conversions as well as climatic factors drive current and future threats to freshwater systems. Research from the United States and across the globe has focused on already threatened and degraded freshwater systems, whose recovery requires significant investments. Attention must also be directed to monitoring freshwater systems that may appear robust, yet are likely to face enhanced vulnerabilities in the future due to climate and land use and cover changes. Such proactive monitoring can help identify problems early and provide potential solutions. In this study, we consider the case of Sebago Lake and its watershed in southern Maine; a region that has experienced significant population growth and development activity. Land use, socioeconomic change and water quality trends are monitored over a 20-year period using Landsat imagery, census, water quality and precipitation data. Our results indicate that Developed Land within the watershed has increased from 5.4 % of the total land area in 1987 to 8.9 % in 2009 with associated increases in population and housing activity. Sebago Lake’s water quality indicators from 1990 to 2010 show a directional trend concomitant with this change. The increase in Developed Land is likely to place additional pressures on water quality in the future. The analysis also indicates that precipitation trends play an important role in water quality variability for Sebago Lake. Predicted changes to climatic factors including enhanced spring time precipitation or earlier ice-out conditions combined with further land use change may play an influential role in determining water quality. The analysis highlights emerging areas of concern and reiterates the essential role of proactively monitoring vulnerable systems to help mitigate future threats.


Freshwater systems Land use change Water quality Remote sensing Sustainability New England Sebago Lake