Lake Ontario likely approaching peak water levels as drought conditions persist


WATERTOWN, N.Y. (WWTI) — Officials are continuing to warn local communities and entities of record-breaking low water conditions along Lake Ontario and the St. Lawrence River.

The International Lake Ontario- St. Lawrence River Board has announced that unless the Lake Ontario basin receives significant rainfall, the Lake is approaching, or already has reached, its maximum water level for the season.

According to the board, it is a result of abnormally dry-to-moderate drought conditions within most of the basin, both around Lake Erie and Lake Ontario and along the St. Lawrence River.

courtesy: NOAA National Centers for Environmental Information

To combat these levels, the board will continue deviations.

Specifically, as defined by Plan 2014 criterion H14, lake levels have reached “critical low,” which is a trigger that now will allow the Board to deviate from plan-prescribed flows. The board is currently operating under the Plan’s low Criterion H14 deviation authority which it expects to apply into July.

The board confirmed it will continue with the current low water deviation strategy of flow reductions of 200 m3/sec below Plan flows until further notice.

“It is important to remember the ability for the Board to influence water levels within this natural system is in the realm of centimeters and inches, not meters and feet,” said United States Co-Chair of the International Lake Ontario – St. Lawrence River Board Steve Durrett. Lake levels are largely dependent on inflows received from Mother Nature, namely precipitation.”

Lake Ontario outflows were first decreased on May 29, 2021.

The board stated that it will continue to monitor conditions and the effects of the deviation strategy and simultaneously track weather forecasts and drought conditions.

The International Lake Ontario- St. Lawrence River Board recently held a virtual public presentation on low water levels. The full presentation can be watched in the player below:

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