Is It A Lake or Pond – What is the Difference in New Hampshire?
This picture is taken at a marsh
First lets look at it from New Hampshire's viewpoint then from what you and I would believe!
From a regulatory viewpoint there is no distinction between a lake and a pond. Both are surface
waters of NH and subject to the same water quality standards. From a naming convention
there is no precise difference between a lake and pond, although water bodies named "lakes" are
generally larger and/or deeper than water bodies named "ponds." From an ecological or
limnological perspective, there is a difference between the two. The difference, however, is
somewhat arbitrary and not consistent or precise.
The water quality of the surface waters of the state, including all lakes and ponds, is regulated
through statutes (RSA 485-A) and rules (Env-Ws 1700). These laws and regulations make no
distinction between lakes and ponds. Both have to meet all the same water quality standards.
The term "lake" or "pond" as part of a water body name is arbitrary and not based on any specific
naming convention. In general, lakes tend to be larger and/or deeper than ponds, but numerous
examples exist of "ponds" that are larger and deeper than "lakes." For example, Echo "Lake" in
Conway is 14 acres in surface area with a maximum depth of 11 feet, while Island "Pond" in
Derry is nearly 500 acres and 80 feet deep. Names for lakes and ponds generally originated from
the early settlers living near them, and the use of the terms "lake" and "pond" was completely
arbitrary. Many have changed names through the years, often changing from a pond to a lake
with no change in size or depth. Often these changes in name were to make the area sound more
attractive to perspective home buyers. Examples of ponds that are now called lakes include Mud
Pond to Mirror Lake in Canaan, Mosquito Pond to Crystal Lake in Manchester and Dishwater
Pond to Mirror Lake in Tuftonboro.
In limnology (the study of inland waters), surface waters are divided into lotic (waters that flow
in a continuous and definite direction) and lentic (waters that do not flow in a continuous and
definite direction) environments. Waters within the lentic category gradually fill in over geologic
time and the evolution is from lake to pond to wetland. This evolution is slow and gradual, and
there is no precise definition of the transition from one to the next.
Early limnologists in the late 18th, early 19th centuries attempted to define the transition from a
lake to a pond in various ways. Area, depth or both were an essential part of most definitions, but
what area or what depth differed. Some used thermal stratification - a lake is a body of water
that is deep enough to thermally stratify into two or three layers during the summer in temperate
regions such as New Hampshire. Others used plant growth - a pond is shallow enough that
sunlight can penetrate to the bottom and support rooted plant growth across its entire width.
Some included all plant growth (including submerged plants) while others said a pond was
shallow enough to support emergent or floating-leafed rooted plants throughout. Although we
won't attempt to define the distinction between a pond and wetland here (it is an even less
precise distinction), a pond with emergent plants throughout would frequently be considered a
wetland (marsh) by many observers.
Limnologists today recognize that nature can't be divided into precise, neat categories and accept
the fact that there will never be a precise definition. However, they also recognize that "deep"
lakes and ponds function differently than "shallow" lakes and ponds, and modern limnology texts
often discuss the two separately. The generally accepted definition of a "shallow lake or pond" is
that class of shallow standing water in which light penetrates to the bottom sediments to
potentially support rooted plant growth throughout the water body. Lack of thermal stratification
and the presence of muddy sediments are also common characteristics of this class of water. In
contrast, a "deep lake or pond" has both a shallow shoreline area that may potentially support
rooted plant growth and a deeper portion where sunlight does not penetrate to the bottom. These
water bodies frequently stratify into distinct thermal layers during the summer.
For more information about surface waters in New Hampshire, visit the DES website at
I am not going to complicate the difference between a lake or pond but the next step would be to
examine what water quality classification the lake or pond comes under to see if that has any effect
calling it a lake, pond or marsh.
Taken from the DES Website
If you need some help Paula and I have plenty of experience with the lakes in the lakes region especially
in helping families find vacation homes.
For additional information on this home call 1-888-737-5550 or e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit our website to view similar lake homes in New Hampshire at www.nhlakesrealty.com or www.lakeorskirealestate.com.
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