How to Form a Lake Association

People who live on lakes have some advantages not available to other citizens. They also have some unique responsibilities which may be difficult for them to deal with as individuals. Sharing and meeting with others with common interests can both stimulate problem solving and provide solutions that may not be otherwise available.

A lake association may help you and your neighbors in many ways to:

Typical Projects for Lake Associations

What To Expect

An Organization With the Best Chance of Success

Where To Start?

Before Your First Informational Meeting

At The First Informational Meeting

Note: The need to form an association will usually be to seek a solution to an existing problem or problems, but to help make the need a cogent one, you might also discuss the history of the lake in terms of boating, swimming, fishing and potability of the water. A discussion of the effect of changes in the lake's watershed might also be pertinent.

After the information has been provided and all of the questions have been answered, you will need to confirm the desire of the group to form an association. A straw vote may suffice for this.

If the result is positive, you may wish to elect temporary officers and to get agreement on a date for the first organizational meeting. This meeting should follow the first informational meeting as soon as possible. The temporary officers should, in the interval, prepare suggestions for bylaws and nominations for permanent officers.

If the people attending the preliminary meeting are not sold on the idea of a permanent association, you may wish to form a steering committee to explore the idea further or to set up another preliminary meeting. This second informational meeting could invite a speaker from a successfully operating lake association to address the specific concerns of those who were negative to the idea of forming an association.

Other Considerations

IRS Reporting

Lake associations are usually organized as "not for profit" corporations. The procedure for doing this requires that application be made to the Washington State Secretary of State for a certification of incorporation. Information for completing this application can be obtained by contacting the Secretary of State's office at 505 E. Union Street (PO Box 40234), Olympia, WA 98504-0234. Their telephone number is (360) 753-7115.

Once the certificate of incorporation is received, it may be necessary also to apply to the U.S. Department of Internal Revenue for tax exempt status under section "501(c)3." Groups such as lake associations are usually considered as scientific or educational; but since they raise funds through dues or other means, the exemption may be required depending on the amount of money raised. The IRS telephone number is 1-800-829-1040.

It is important that careful records be kept of all disbursements, receipts and other financial transactions. If you have association members who are attorneys or accountants, they may be willing to help in setting up your association's accounting records and filing for tax exempt status.

Lake Management and Sewer Districts

It may be necessary, in order to fund large projects, to assess or tax lake property owners. Limited authority to do this may be granted by city or county governments upon petition by a majority of the lake's property owners.


Liability insurance for the directors and officers are two additional items that your organization may wish to consider. Perhaps one of your members who is in the insurance business can provide information about the need for this type of insurance. Alternately, you can contact The Community Association Institute at 1423 Powhatan St., Alexandria, VA 22314; (703) 548-8600, for additional information.

Sources for More Information

Join the North American Lake Management Society (NALMS) (906) 462-2554 and the Washington State Lake Protection Association (WALPA) P.O. Box 1206, Seattle, WA 98111-1206.

Organizing Lake Users: A Practical Guide published by Terrene Institute, 1000 Connecticut Ave., NW, Suite 802, Washington, DC 20036.

A Citizen's Guide to Understanding and Monitoring Lakes and Streams. Now out of print but available on the web - Just click on the title.

Lake and Reservoir Restoration Guidance Manual. 2nd Edition EPA 440/490006. Write to Clean Lakes Program, Assessment and Watershed Protection Agency, 401 M Street SW, Washington, DC 20460.

A Citizen's Manual for Developing Integrated Aquatic Vegetation Management Plans. Contact Ecology publications at (360) 407-7472 or E-mail: Also available on the web - just click on the title.

Acknowledgment: University of Wisconsin, College of Natural Resources for permission to use portions of their publication Starting a Lake Association.