Lisa Borre, David Barker,
From its second-floor office
in a converted Eastport residence, a small, nonprofit organization
is tackling some large-scale freshwater resource restoration and
protection issues---and is producing a very positive ripple effect
on lakes around the world. The mission of LakeNet is focused on
the fact that 90 percent of the world's accessible freshwater
is held in lakes and that much of that water supply is in crisis.
is a global network, consisting of more than 900 members in 90
countries, including individuals, government agencies, businesses,
research and education institutions and nonprofit grassroots groups.
The Annapolis office employs a small core staff and serves as
a coordination center for the rest of the network. The organization,
formerly known as Monitor International, changed its name last
year to reflect its narrowing focus from both freshwater and marine
issues to full-time concentration on the health of lakes and the
communities around them.
The husband and wife team of David Read Barker and Lisa Borre
heads up the LakeNet Secretariat as president and director, respectively.
Borre grew up near Lake Michigan and enjoyed boating and camping
with her family throughout the Great Lakes region. She earned
a bachelor of arts degree in geology with honors from the University
of Vermont in 1986 and a master's degree in environmental management
from Yale University in 1989. From 1990 to 1997, she was the director
of a multi-state financial program called the Lake Champlain Basin
Barker was educated as a medical anthropologist and, before LakeNet,
was working as an advisor to the minister of public works in Jakarta,
Indonesia, under a U.S. government project in that location. "The
minister asked me to help develop a strategic plan to protect
Lake Toba, a huge volcanic crater lake on the island of Sumatra,"
he says. "It was suggested that we identify a sister lake in the
United States." Barker, though he had never heard of a sister
lake, explains, "Since my family was all from the Lake Champlain
valley, it only took about one picosecond to decide that, of course,
Lake Champlain was going to be the sister lake!" He called home
and asked his mother, "Who knows about Lake Champlain and can
come to Indonesia to create a sister lake?" Her answer was, "Lisa
About a year later, the pair discovered that there were, in fact,
a number of "twinning" or sister-lake relationships in existence
and that each thought they were unique in the world. "We realized
that there was a need to create some sort of open mechanism for
sharing experience and expertise [and] basically, that is what
we do---help people share experience," says Barker.
There has been a movement of international water policy discussions
going on for the past few years. LakeNet has been involved in
those key meetings, trying to raise awareness and elevate lakes
within that agenda, "because they are such important resources
and they tend to be overlooked," says Barker. "Literally, there
are thousands of people now involved in LakeNet...and we find
that everybody is dealing with the same issues, many of them very
similar to what we deal with here on the Chesapeake Bay: invasive
species, water quality, how to manage land so the water is healthy."
Many of the problems in lake regions are caused by global forces,
whether political or economic. Transatlantic freighters that come
through the St. Lawrence Seaway into the Great Lakes, for example,
are the source of most of the invasive species that have entered
the Chesapeake Bay and the Great Lakes, according to Borre. Excessive
water withdrawals and diversions are also concerns shared by lake
communities worldwide. "We can't just always look at it as one
little issue at a time," says Borre. "Some of these issues are
so complex that we really believe there is a need for global communities
of people trying to solve them together."
Almost every lake in the world is regulated in terms of surface
water level and is drawn down seasonally for hydropower generation
and irrigation purposes. "Trying to find management processes
that balance the requirements of farmers or hydropower plants
and local lake shore residents is a major set of issues," Barker
In many developing countries, there is heavy reliance on water
resources as the basis for the health and economic growth of the
community. "You can have prosperity and economic growth, and you
can have conservation and a healthy environment at the same time,"
says Barker. "We definitely learned in the 20th century that pillaging
the environment does not get you to prosperity on any kind of
permanent basis. Over the long haul, if you don't take care of
the soil, forests, land and water, prosperity will eventually
A lot of what LakeNet is trying to do involves identifying leaders
and strengthening the capacity of organizations who are working
on lakes. "We don't want to come in and fix things ourselves,"
Borre says. "We want to try to identify the right people and help
them get access to information or financial resources or technical
resources---whatever they need."
Much of the world's surface water is trans-boundary, such as Lake
Ocrid on the border of Macedonia and Albania. Borre was in the
region in 1996 when tension was high between the two countries.
Their relationship focused solely on management of the lake. "I
was on a boat that started in Macedonia with Macedonian officials,
and we were met out in the middle of the lake by the Albanian
officials who came aboard and we went across the lake," says Borre.
"It was the first time in 50 years that a boat had taken officials
of one country into the other-a pretty amazing moment."
"There aren't many other organizations our size with the scope
that we're trying to tackle," Borre says. "And I think part of
what makes it challenging, but also what makes it work, is that
we are so focused on something. That helps keep things moving
and keeps a very positive momentum."
For more information about LakeNet, visit www.worldlakes.org.
Callaghan is a freelance writer and native Marylander who
enjoys spending time with her five grandchildren.