Poland has about 9 000 natural lakes with an area of over 1 ha. They perform unique ecological, landscape and tourist and recreational functions. The lakes are able to provide the above benefits as long as they maintain their good ecological status. Tens of years of centrally planned water management and dominant state ownership did not prevent the catastrophic state of surface water quality in Poland. The new centralist system of management of water resources even more limited stakeholder participation to the level of information exchange and consultation. Grassroots lake associations can help overcome ineffective administrative patterns in lakes management. These organization are able to address issues that state institutions are not well suited to tackle at local scale. The role of government institutions is also important but mainly on the level of preparation relevant policies, strategies, legal and administrative regulations.