Lake districts are special purpose units of government, and include; public inland lake protection and rehabilitation districts, sanitary districts, special districts, and commissions formed by local governments. The purpose of a district is to maintain, protect, and improve the quality of a lake and its watershed for the mutual good of the members and the lake environment.
Lake districts are governmental bodies with elected or appointed leaders and annual budgets funded from tax levies or special assessments. Districts also have some capabilities to regulate lake use, such as local boating ordinances and sewage management. Within a lake district, all property owners share in the cost of management activities undertaken by the district. Residents who live in the district and are eligible voters and all property owners have a vote in the affairs of the district. This is accomplished at an annual meeting which must be held between May 22 and September 8 each year.
Lake districts are established by town, county or village boards, or city councils, and usually based on a formal petition of lake area owners. Lake district formation and operations must comply with Chapter 33 of the Wisconsin Statutes. The boundaries of a lake district usually include the property of all riparian owners and can include off-lake property that benefits from the lake or affects the lake's watershed. The district may include all or part of a lake or more than one lake. A city or village must give its approval to be included in a district.