Lake Pontchartrain Basin Waterways
The Pontchartrain Basin is a watershed, an area of land that drains into a particular body of water. Lake Pontchartrain is the center of the Pontchartrain Basin watershed. The waterways that make up the Pontchartrain Basin include different types.
Two major rivers form the approximate east and west boundaries of the basin. The Mississippi River is on the western side of the basin and the Pearl River is on the eastern side.
Three sister lakes lay in the basin between the two major rivers, the 630 square mile Lake Pontchartrain is the largest with Lake Maurepas to its west and Lake Borgne to its east. The lakes are connected by passes, Pass Manchac, Chef Pass and the Rigolets Pass. Although called lakes these water bodies are not true lakes since they are not completely surrounded by land. Instead they are all part of an estuarine system, or inland bay system. An estuary is a partially closed coastal body of water where freshwater and saltwater mix.
The three lakes lead one to the other and ultimately connect out into the Gulf of Mexico. They receive fresh water from north shore streams, rivers and bayous as well as rain and are influenced by tidal action from the gulf bringing in saltwater. They provide critical habitat for many species of animals.
Many smaller rivers drain into the estuary. The Amite, Tickfaw, Natalbany and Comite Rivers drain into Lake Maurepas while the Tangipahoa, Tchefuncta, and Bogue Falaya Rivers drain into Lake Pontchartrain. The Pearl and West Pearl Rivers drain into the top of Lake Borgne.
Smaller more sluggish marshy waterbodies called bayous also enter the Pontchartrain Basin. Bayou Manchac works its way to Lake Maurepas. Bayou Castine, Cane Bayou, Bayou Liberty and Bayou Bonfouca flow into Lake Pontchartrain from the north shore while Bayou St. John and Bayou LaBranche enter the lake from the south shore. Bayou Bienvenue flows into Lake Borgne to the east .
An unusual additional source of water into the estuarine system is the manmade canals which drain the low land of the metropolitan New Orleans area. The water in these canals is pumped into Lake Pontchartrain to keep the city dry.
Finally, the water bodies of the Pontchartrain Basin connect to the Gulf of Mexico through the Mississippi, Chandeleur, and Breton Sounds. A sound is a wide relatively shallow inlet of a gulf, sea or ocean that parallels a coast, frequently inside a barrier island. Gradually the water’s salinity increases as it gets further out into the Gulf of Mexico.
Wastewater Assistance Program
The Lake Pontchartrain Basin Foundation, in partnership with the LDEQ’s Small Business Assistance Program, offers free education, technical assistance, and assistance with permits to the owner/operators of wastewater treatment plants (WWTPs) in the Lake Pontchartrain Basin. When LPBF visits your facility, the WWTP will be inspected for functionality and the paperwork and permitting of the plant will be reviewed. We will offer technically-sound, economical, and innovative ways for the WWTP to come into compliance. The LPBF, in partnership with LDEQ and the Louisiana Department of Health and Hospitals (LDHH), also provides technical training sessions for WWTP plant operators to assist with their continuing education. Please call Will at the LPBF for more information and to set up a visit (504) 836-2215.
Knowing your plant and maintaining it is very important to make sure it is discharging clean water. Remember, most home and small commercial systems are aerated treatment plants, NOT septic systems (our soils do not work well for septic systems). Please check the following resources for information on the care and maintenance of your small WWTP.
Homeowner’s Guide to Household Sewage Treatment Systems
Decentralized Onsite Management for Treatment of Domestic Wastes
Septic (Onsite) Systems Guidance, Manuals and Policies