About twenty minutes northwest of Portland lies Sebago Lake. Beyond containing the main ingredient in our beer, it provides water for the entirety of Portland. In the interest of learning more about this vital water source, we went out with Laurel and Steve of the Portland Water District, on a tour of the lake itself.
The lake appears almost out of nowhere beyond the trees that line Route 35. In fact, apart from a couple of beaches here and there, the lake feels almost hemmed in by Maine wilderness. This abundance of tree-lined coast happens to be one of the very real reasons why Sebago Lake’s water is so excellent. And calling the water “excellent” is not an exaggeration. Sebago Lake water is so free of pollutants that it doesn’t need to be filtered—just disinfected. Of the roughly 13,000 water sources nationwide, only 50 others can claim this same distinction.
The lake itself was placid when we visited on a late fall day. Steve drove while Laurel answered our questions over the engine’s steady rumble. Visibility through the water, one of the many tests Laurel and her colleagues will perform each week, is about 10.5 meters on average. An impressive number that’s rarely enough to see the bottom. The Lower Bay—where we set out—descends to around 150 ft. of depth. At the lake’s deepest point in Big Bay the bottom stretches down over 300 feet.
So just how much water does Sebago Lake hold? One way to describe its enormous size is the fact that more water is lost to evaporation than all the taps in Portland pull from it every day. Portland residents, Allagash included, use around 20 millions gallons per day. Put in more concrete terms, the lake holds about one trillion gallons of water, which is over 1,500 olympic sized swimming pools.
Don’t worry about the amount of water leaving the lake, though. More water flows down the Presumpscot River—the lake’s main outlet—than is lost by evaporation and imbibing both. The lake is continually replenished with fresh, clean water from its major tributary, the Crooked River.
What makes it such a pristine body of water, then? A large part of that answer comes from the woods surrounding it. Forests act as a natural filter. And there are large swaths of unbroken forest that protect and purify the rivers and streams that feed the lake.
In the spirit of keeping that clean water just the way it is, we work with and donate to environmental proponents like the Natural Resources Council of Maine, Trusts that support the Sebago Lake Watershed, and more. Obviously clean water affects so much more than beer. So we feel strongly, as a brewery and group of people who love our lake, that it needs to be preserved and protected.