Sebago Clean Waters (SCW), of which Highstead is a lead partner, is a collaborative that protects water quality, community well-being, a vibrant economy, and the health of fish and wildlife in the Sebago watershed in Maine.  Through voluntary forest conservation, SCW works with landowners, communities, businesses, and NGOs to protect the forestland that creates, filters, and sustains the watershed’s exceptionally pure water supply. SCW serves as a powerful example of the kind of cross-boundary, cross-sector collaborative that is helping advance the Wildlands & Woodlands vision.

View of Bear Pond Long Lake from Mount Tire’m Waterford | Photo by Brie Holme

SCW is made up of nine partner organizations—Loon Echo Land Trust, Western Foothills Land Trust, Casco Bay Estuary Partnership, Lakes Environmental Association, The Open Space Institute, Portland Water District, The Nature Conservancy, The Trust for Public Land, and Highstead, which serves as the partnership’s fiscal agent and provides staffing and leadership.

Community collaboration

From its start, SCW has been supported by conservation organizations, local businesses, watershed landowners, municipal leaders, and private citizens. The watershed and surrounding areas rely heavily on access to clean water, sustaining more than one-fifth of Maine residents.

SCW’s goals were created to protect the water supply that sustains its community, both upstream and downstream:

  • Conserve an additional 35,000 acres of land in the Sebago watershed (to conserve 25% of the land area) in the next 15 years
  • Build a $15M Water Fund from new funding sources to support conservation work

SCW completed its first flagship project in 2019, protecting the 1,400-acre Tiger Hill Community Forest in Sebago. Building on the momentum of that success, SCW is building its partners’ capacity to protect land, exploring the use of state revolving funds for forest conservation, and expanding partnerships and participation with local businesses.

Highstead supports SCW by:

  • Providing continuing leadership after having co-founded Sebago Clean Waters
  • Acting as the group’s fiscal agent and supporting fundraising and grant efforts
  • Guiding the conservation and watershed science that is at the core of the group’s work
  • Providing staffing, conservation finance expertise, and partnership strategy
  • Advocating for Sebago Clean Waters through interaction with regional, national and sometimes international audiences.

Business buy-in

Many businesses in the watershed have shown enthusiastic support for SCW’s mission. Several local breweries that rely on Sebago’s clean water have established donation programs or produced special edition beer to raise funds and awareness for the organization.

Partner organizations are using existing and new business partnerships to elevate the message that clean drinking water is a right for all and to gain support from a wider share of the local community.