Water Resources

Aerial View of Saccarappa FallsBackground

Westbrook has over 35 miles of watercourses and approximately 30 acres of ponds. The Presumpscot and Stroudwater Rivers and Mill Brook are significant water bodies that define Westbrook's character. Please see the Water Resources map for water bodies that influence the natural and built environment in Westbrook. Resource Protection makes up approximately 5% of the total land in Westbrook, along the Stroudwater River, the western end of the Presumpscot River and the southern 1/3 of Mill Brook and Highland Lake. Protection measures are required in these areas in order to protect the integrity of the water body and the public health and welfare and to minimize impact on surrounding communities.

Most people believe that water pollution is caused by pipes dumping toxic industrial waste into a river. But this type of pollution, called point source pollution, has largely been controlled by legislation such as the Clean Water Act, which was passed by Congress in 1972. In reality, a large amount of water pollution does not come from a single point. This type of pollution is called non-point source pollution.

Point Source Pollution

Point source pollution is pollution that comes from a single source, such as a factory or wastewater treatment plant. The Clean Water Act put restrictions on how much and what kind of pollutants industries can dispose of in rivers and lakes, such restrictions are administered at the state level. While this has not eliminated industrial or domestic waste from entering our waters completely, it has reduced what once was our biggest source of water pollution.

Westbrook has combined storm and sanitary sewer systems. Sanitary sewers collect wastewater from homes and businesses and treat it before discharging it into the river. Storm sewers, on the other hand, are a direct connection to the city's waterways. Anything dumped into a storm grate or gutter discharges to a stream or lake at an outfall. Each outfall is considered to be a point source. Westbrook has been implementing a Combined Sewer Overflow Master Plan for years and spends approximately $2 million dollars per year toward eliminating combined sewer overflows, which is our biggest point source pollution. Westbrook operates a wastewater treatment plant that is running near capacity and requires basic maintenance and upgrades. New development places additional demand on the plant, which will ultimately need to be expanded.

Non-point source pollution does not have one specific source, such as a factory. Non-point source pollution comes from the cumulative effect of a region's residents going about their everyday activities, such as fertilizing a lawn or driving a car. Any of these pollutants which get either washed or dumped into the storm sewer flow directly to a stream or lake without treatment.

Westbrook has a permit from the state that requires management and elimination of stormwater pollution. Westbrook is one of 28 communities that are regulated by the State of Maine for its separate storm sewer system.

As a matter of policy and practice, the Department of Public Services uses best management practices to protect water resources in their daily operations, such as performing maintenance of their salt/sand pile, their vehicle fleet and on-site mechanical equipment; sweeping streets of potential pollutants; reducing the use of pesticides and fertilizer at city facilities and reducing runoff from municipal and private construction sites.

Westbrook Water ResourcesAgency Partnerships

The City of Westbrook partners with the Cumberland County Soil & Water Conservation District (CCSWCD) and the Presumpscot River Watershed Coalition (PRWC) to promote water resource protection. The mission of the CCSWCD is to assist and educate the public to promote stewardship of soil and water resources. The CCSWCD serves as a resource for conservation information, services and products for Cumberland County. The purpose of the PRWC is to promote the recovery and long term health of the Presumpscot River and its tributaries by implementing the Presumpscot River Management Plan which includes three focus areas: restoring fisheries, mitigating and reducing cumulative impacts and improving and preserving open space.

Conditions & Trends

Construction, residential and non-residential habitation and agricultural uses have the potential to threaten water bodies. However, there are no water bodies in Westbrook that have been categorized as impaired by the Maine Department of Environmental Protection. In an effort to promote regional cooperation and to minimize the impact that Westbrook poses to nearby communities, Westbrook participates in mitigation planning with regional partners in the Long Creek watershed and Capisic Brook watershed. Westbrook will participate in a watershed management program for Nason's Brook, predominantly located in Portland, when a program is initiated. Included in this chapter is a map depicting water bodies in Westbrook and their assigned Shoreland Zoning designation, if any.

Condition of Water Bodies

Presumpscot and Stroudwater Rivers: These water bodies are suitable for human use (recreation, industrial process and cooling water supply and hydroelectric power generation). This state rating reflects their location in an urban setting with long term development and agriculture along the water bodies. They are fishable and swimmable and provide habitat for fish, plants and other aquatic life. The Presumpscot River is stocked with brown trout. Wild brook trout may be found in the Stroudwater River. The Presumpscot River flows through the downtown and is primarily accessed from the Lincoln Street put-in and new ramp and float access at Riverbank Park, the end of Ash Street and at the Brown Street community garden, near Cottage Place. The Stroudwater River meanders through low-density residential neighborhoods and the back of an industrial park. Access points are currently informal.

Highland Lake: Highland Lake is located in Windham, Falmouth and its southern end is in Westbrook. The Westbrook end of the lake is surrounded by very low density residential development on a handful of parcels. The lake was designated as impaired until 2010 when, after many years of watershed restoration work by the Highland Lake Association, it was removed from the list of impaired water bodies. Highland Lake is important as a recreational resource and fishery but has limited public access.

Beaver Pond: Beaver Pond is an approximately 4 acre pond that is located adjacent to downtown Westbrook. Beaver Pond is surrounded by Saccarappa Cemetery and an urban residential neighborhood. The pond is accessed from public open space and is stocked with brook trout.

Mill and Minnow Brook: Mill Brook runs between Highland Lake and the Presumpscot River, between Methodist Road and Bridgton Road. Minnow Brook runs between Falmouth and the Presumpscot River, east of Bridgton Road. Wild brook trout have been reported in both brooks and Mill Brook is stocked with brown and brook trout. Any current discharges pose no negative impact to the water bodies. Mill Brook is accessible by the public from several points along Methodist Road and from the CMP right of way that runs through the brook and crosses over both Methodist Road and Bridgton Road. Minnow Brook lacks the same level of public access.

Shoreland Zoning

Westbrook is in compliance with current state requirements for Shoreland Zoning, which protects the Presumpscot River, Stroudwater River and Mill Brook, while also being true to the built environment and the drive for economic development. Westbrook has three categories of Shoreland Zoning: the General Development Shoreland Zone (in the downtown, where most of the built environment predates Shoreland Zoning and Westbrook has worked in coordination with the state's Shoreland Zoning program to tailor the program to be mutually beneficial); Resource Protection; and the Stream Protection District.

The purpose of the Shoreland Zoning Overlay districts is to maintain safe and healthful conditions; to prevent and control water pollution; to protect fish spawning grounds, aquatic life, bird and other wildlife habitat; to protect archeological and historic resources; to protect water dependent industries; to protect freshwater wetlands; to control building sites, placement of structures and land uses; to conserve shore cover, visual as well as physical points of access to inland waters; to conserve natural beauty and open space; and to anticipate and respond to the impacts of development in the shore land areas.

Portland Water District

Westbrook is a member of the Portland Water District, which provides for the required supply of public drinking water. The source of public drinking water is Sebago Lake which also serves Greater Portland. Sebago Lake is exceptionally clear and soft - clean enough to be exempt from the expensive filtration process required of most surface water sources. The lake covers 30,000 acres. The watershed is more than 50 miles long, stretching from Bethel to Standish and includes parts of 24 towns.

  • Westbrook will continue to work with neighboring communities and regional planning entities to comply with the adopted state and regional requirements for stormwater management and erosion and sedimentation control in order to protect water resources and improve water quality where needed.
  • Westbrook will continue to upgrade its public sewer system and wastewater treatment facilities in order to minimize pollution discharges.
  • Westbrook has had great success and will continue to review development projects on an individual basis for opportunities to incorporate low impact development standards. The cluster provisions in the RGA-3 and Rural Zoning Districts and the density incentives that encourage development in areas with access to public sewer work to reduce the impact on the environment of residential development.
  • Westbrook will encourage landowners involved in agricultural and wood harvesting to protect water quality.
  • Westbrook will continue to work with regional partners such as the Cumberland County Soil and Water Conservation District, the Presumpscot River Watershed Coalition and the Presumpscot Regional Land Trust to preserve the health of the water resources in Westbrook and to provide recreational opportunities for the public.
  • Westbrook will explore opportunities to improve public access to all water bodies in town; particularly Highland Lake, the Stroudwater River and Minnow Brook.