Founding, Mission & Goals

The North American Lake Management Society (NALMS) was founded in 1980 at the third gathering of lake scientists in Portland, Maine. Two previous gatherings in Madison, WI and Minneapolis, MN paved the way in 1978 and 1979.

The focus of NALMS is on lake management for a wide variety of uses, but to do this it is necessary to address land use and other issues on a watershed level. We get involved in land, streams, wetland and even estuaries in the course of our activities, as lakes are a logical endpoint in systems that incorporate all of these resource types. The focus is lakes, but the medium is water, and it defies governmental boundaries, human ownership, and even physical form. The management target of NALMS is lakes, but this involves activities in all landscape forms.

The primary function is educational, but on a variety of levels: scientists, academics, professional lake managers, politicians, legislators, policy makers, regulators, volunteer monitors, lake property owners, lake users, and anyone interested in lakes

The NALMS mission statement is simple and clear: The purpose of the Society is to forge partnerships among citizens, scientists, and professionals to foster the management and protection of lakes and reservoirs for today and tomorrow.

The implication of this mission is that we are not a society with a narrow focus on professionals, academic researchers, or any smaller interest group. NALMS is a melting pot in terms of membership, and welcomes anyone interested in lakes and lake management.

The specific goals of NALMS, as spelled out in the Constitution and Bylaws, are to:

  1. Facilitate the exchange of information on the technical and administrative aspects of managing lakes and their watersheds.
  2. Promote public awareness of lake ecosystems.
  3. Encourage public support for national, state or provincial, and local programs promoting management of lakes and their watersheds.
  4. Provide guidance to public and private agencies involved in or planning management activities for lakes and their watersheds.
  5. Improve the professional status of all persons engaged in any aspect of managing lakes and their watersheds.
  6. Identify needs and encourage research on lake ecology and watershed management.

Legislative Underpinnings

Although NALMS is continental in scope and international in reach, historically its legislative focus has been largely on US actions. There are a number of pieces of legislation that apply, including the Safe Drinking Water Act and the Clean Air Act, but the Clean Water Act is the most relevant to the mission of NALMS

The Clean Water Act was first created in 1972, has been amended several times. It has a number of important sections, dealing with wastewater management, stormwater management, water supplies, non-point source pollution, and overall lake management. Key sections relating to NALMS include:

Section 314 - Clean Lakes Program, which set up procedures for assessing and rehabilitating lakes, and was really the impetus for starting NALMS. Grant funds were substantial in the early years, but eventually this program was defunded; it exists on paper, but has no funds allocated to actual lake assessment or management. NALMS has fought for years to keep funding for this program, and was successful for a time, but there have been no federal funds devoted directly to lake management through Section 314 for years;

Section 319 - Non-point Source Controls, which addresses pollution other than that which is defined as a discharge. Non-point sources, most notably runoff from agricultural and some urban areas, are a big issue for lakes and streams, and management through grants provided by this program is valuable to NALMS members, but funds are insufficient for all the activities needed and not all lake problems can be solved by watershed management. EPA has instructed states to make some portion of Section 319 funds available for direct lake management, but not all states do this and the allocation is not adequate. In other words, this is a good program, but not able to provide everything we need to manage lakes.

Section 303(d) - Impaired Waters Listing, which includes lakes and streams that do not meet state standards and are therefore considered impaired for their designated uses. Although this program can be used to protect lakes, it is largely focused on damaged systems. EPA had largely ignored this part of the CWA until third party lawsuits forced attention. As a program, the 303(d) process resembles the Clean Lakes Program (Section 314), and has merit. However, it has become a bean counting exercise in some regions, with reports valued over remedial activity. It is not a major source of funds, but rather a regulatory hook to force action on impaired or threatened systems.

Projects & Programs


NALMS produces two quarterly publications: LakeLine Magazine and the Journal of Lake & Reservoir Management. Each publication has its own editorial staff. LakeLine targets the general public and lake users and has historically been NALMS' most visible public representation. All members receive a subscription to LakeLine. Lake & Reservoir Management, published by Taylor & Francis, is a journal of peer-reviewed scientific papers targeting a largely technical audience of academics and lake managers. This publication is less visible than LakeLine, but is considered a major source of practical information in the technical lake management community. Only members in certain higher cost membership categories receive a subscription to Lake & Reservoir Management.

In addition, NALMS produces a variety of other publications, such as Your Lake & You, How's the Water and The Lake Pocket Book, which are distributed through the NALMS Store, and aimed at conveying basic lake management concepts and resources to a broad public audience. NALMS also communicates with its members through a monthly E-newsletter distributed by email.

Professional Certification Program

NALMS initiated a Certified Lake Manager program around 1990, and later added the Certified Lake Professional designation. The certification program has two primary purposes: 1) to designate individuals who meet the requirements as qualified in the areas of lake management (CLM) or lake management support (CLP); and 2) to require continuing education that keeps certified individuals current in the field and aware of important developments that affect lake management.


NALMS Annual International Symposium is the main NALMS event of the year, typically attracting an international collection of 500-600 attendees. The Annual Symposium. generates a lot of interest, produces material for NALMS' publications, promotes the exchange of scientific information among scientists, lake managers, students, and citizens, and provides a rare opportunity for face to face contact and networking, as well as an opportunity to recognize excellence in the field of lake and reservoir management. The Annual Symposium is typically held in the fall of the year, and is sited based on a regional rotation system.

NALMS also has involvement in a variety of ways with other national conferences, such as the biennial National Water Monitoring Conference, and with state and regionally focused conferences, such as Enhancing the States' Lakes Programs, now in its 22nd year, which is held annually in Chicago, and the NALMS Southeast Regional Conference, held annually in conjunction with the Annual Meeting of the Florida Lake Management Society

Councils & Partnerships

NALMS volunteers also participate in nationally important committees, councils and partnerships linked with other organizations and government agencies, such as the:

Advisory Committee on Water Information: composed of representatives from Federal, state and other governmental agencies, professional and technical societies, the academic community and the private sector, who, through the Department of the Interior and the U.S. Geological Survey, advise the Federal Government on the coordination and effectiveness of Federal water information programs

National Water Quality Monitoring Council: a nationwide partnership of water monitoring and information management authorities from federal and state agencies, tribes, municipalities, business and industry, academia, agriculture, environmental groups, and others with expertise in environmental monitoring, established for the purpose of implementing a voluntary, integrated, nationwide strategy to improve water resource monitoring, assessment, and reporting, and supported by the U.S. EPA; and the

Source Water Collaborative: a consortium of twenty-three national organizations united to protect America's drinking water at the source 'in the lakes, rivers, streams and aquifers we tap for drinking purposes.

Membership Levels

The Board of Directors is composed of five officers (Past President, President, President-Elect, Secretary and Treasurer) that constitute the Executive Committee, and twelve directors representing geographic regions. There are nine regions that include just USA states, two that split Canada into eastern and western regions, and one region that includes southwestern USA states, Mexico, and any other international members

The Executive Committee and Board of Directors are both composed of volunteers are and are usually considered as one group, the Board, as each individual has a single vote at meetings. Executive Committee members are elected members of the Board, and conduct routine business with the approval and direction of the full Board of Directors. Officers and directors are elected by the membership, with officers elected by the entire membership and directors elected by the members within their assigned regions.

Headquarters Office & Staff

NALMS has maintained an office since its early years. First it was part of the JT&A consulting operation in Washington DC. There was mutual benefit between NALMS and JT&A in the early years, but as NALMS grew, it needed to have more control over its functions. It moved to Alachua, FL in 1991 as an independent operation on an interim basis, while a more permanent location was researched, then to Madison around 1994. There are no plans to move the main office to any other geographic area, although in the future a presence in other areas may be sought.

The staff currently is composed of a Membership Services Coordinator, and a Program Manager. Even with two full-time professionals managing the business operations of NALMS, the staff is challenged to keep up with the many demands which flow through the headquarters office of an organization with a continental scope and international reach. As NALMS becomes more successful in garnering resources to help it fulfill its mission, additional staff will be necessary


In addition to the work performed by the Board of Directors and staff, volunteers participating on committees help fulfill the NALMS mission. Non-board committees currently include Awards, Certification, Conference Advisory, Education & Outreach, Government Affairs, Marketing, Membership, and Policy.