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The Freshwater Initiative: What’s Ahead for 2024

Cape Cod’s water resources are integral to the region’s identity. Ponds play a critical role in the health of the environment and the health of watersheds, and their effects on our economy ripple throughout the region. Ponds provide an opportunity for recreation, but they also provide essential habitat and functions for our natural systems. Cape Cod ponds are at risk from pollutants in precipitation, runoff, and the groundwater by which they are recharged.

The Cape Cod Freshwater Initiative is a science-based, information-driven planning process that engages stakeholders and enables action to protect and restore Cape Cod’s freshwater resources. It began in 2021 with an update to the Cape Cod Ponds Atlas. Since then, the team has been working to collect the data needed to make informed management decisions in our ponds and to better understand how they are changing from season to season and year to year.

Work to date includes the Pond Atlas and a companion interactive map, the launch of the Cape Cod Regional Pond Monitoring Program, a partnership between the Commission and the Association to Preserve Cape Cod that began in 2023. From April through November 2023, staff and volunteers spent more than 500 hours in the field, making 346 pond visits and sending 3,113 sample bottles to the Center for Coastal Studies lab for analysis. Year Two is already underway. Monitors began pond visits this March.

The Commission contracted with ERG to conduct an economic analysis of Cape Cod’s ponds. The analysis is nearly complete. Key findings indicate that Cape Cod ponds and lakes are popular destinations, residents and non-resident homeowners support targeted pond improvements, prioritizing the most impaired and most used or visited, pond health drives visitors and increases home value, and ponds and lakes are important to the region’s economy.

Ongoing work includes developing a strategies database, continuing to investigate the use of satellite-derived imagery and existing pond water quality data to help quantify changes in pond characteristics, and convening a series of stakeholder meetings.

Stakeholder meetings began in March 2024. Three groups, organized by groundwater lens, will meet three times over the next few months to establish a shared understanding of freshwater systems and perspectives, explore strategies and priorities, and review the implementation plan.

Stakeholders include abutters, pond groups, municipal staff, nonprofits, and businesses. The feedback gathered will inform prioritization and action steps to preserve and protect the region’s freshwater resources. Stakeholders will also play an important role in implementing any changes and helping to spread the word about pond preservation and best practices.

To learn more about the Cape Cod Freshwater Initiative, please visit



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