Part of what makes Columbia such a special place to live is our beautiful lakes, and it’s time to recognize an unsung hero helping our Open Space team keep them clean and healthy.

Introducing the aqua harvesters, also known as the aqua mowers. Each day, these ecofriendly machines play a key role in our mission as environmental stewards.

The origins of CA’s aqua mower

In the late 1980s, the community made it clear that keeping Columbia’s lakes clean and clear was important. Rather than use damaging synthetic chemicals, we prioritized finding an environmentally sound method of controlling vegetation.

The decision was made to invest in an aqua mower, which has now been enhancing the quality of Columbia’s lakes for more than three decades. Today, our “fleet” has grown to a family of four (two larger machines and two smaller ones). If you’ve ever spotted a vessel with a hydraulic lift in our lakes, you’ve witnessed one of CA’s aqua mowers hard at work.

How it works

You can think of this machine as an underwater lawn mower. The sickle bar on the sides and front of the vessel cuts through aquatic plants and invasive weeds. Then, the material is moved to the conveyor belt on the back. Once it’s full, this material is loaded onto a trailer and composted (did you know lake weeds make an excellent compost?).

A huge benefit is that the aqua mower doesn’t “kill” vegetation like chemicals do. Instead, it provides a trim to scale vegetation to a healthier level. This leaves behind living plants that continue to enhance oxygen levels for other organisms. It also releases nutrients back into the water that were trapped in the vegetation.

Ultimately, our aqua mowers restore the natural ecology of the lakes and encourage the growth of healthy native plant communities, fish and wildlife.

Your role as an environmental steward

Our aqua mowers are essential to CA’s commitment to protecting the environment for future generations, but we also rely on you and everyone here in Columbia to keep our community litter-free. Everything left on the ground can end up in our lakes, so every time you properly dispose of trash, you play a key role in keeping our waterways clear and healthy. Thanks in advance for doing your part!


Visit CA’s watershed management page to learn more all things watershed