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Water levels up on Great Lakes

By Dave Johnson, Tribune Staff

Water levels on the Great Lakes are higher than normal right now, says Environment and Climate Change Canada. Levels could continue to rise if it keeps raining. The public boat launch at H.H. Knoll Park is a good indicator when the levels are up.

Water levels on the Great Lakes are higher than normal right now, says Environment and Climate Change Canada. Levels could continue to rise if it keeps raining. The public boat launch at H.H. Knoll Park is a good indicator when the levels are up.

Water levels are higher than average on all of the Great Lakes right now, says the manager of Great Lakes – St. Lawrence Regulation Office of Environment and Climate Change Canada.

“We just reached a condition this week where people would consider that we’re above the flood stage on Lake Ontario under calm conditions,” says Rob Caldwell.

Caldwell says while different stakeholders like average, low or high water levels, the people most impacted by high levels right now are those along the shorelines.

Lake Erie and Lake Ontario shoreline property owners can expect to see an increase in erosion and storm damage when the conditions are right, says Caldwell.

Someone living on the south shore of Lake Ontario could expect to see water creep up on their property when winds come out of the north and push waves up on their shoreline. Lake Erie residents from Fort Erie through to Wainfleet would be affected by winds coming out of the south or southwest.

A major factor in the increase in water levels has been rainstorms across the Great Lakes over the past few weeks, says Caldwell. Snow melt and runoff contribute as well, though in the case of lakes Erie and Ontario there is no snowpack left.

“There are three components that affect water levels. Evaporation off of a lake’s surface is a negative, it draws water from the lakes. Contributing factors on the positive side include precipitation and runoff into the lake, and connecting channels that inflow from the upper lakes and outflow from the lower lakes. They all determine how much water a lake receives.”

As of Tuesday, April 18, Lake Erie was 46 centimetres above average for this time of year. Caldwell says the lake was 174.68 metres above sea level, and that its average at this time of year is 174.22 metres above sea level.

And with the recent rainfall over the past few days, those levels could rise, he says.

“Even a half inch (1.27 centimetres) or an inch (2.54 centimetres) of rain can have an impact. Spread that rainfall over the surface of Lake Erie, and it can add trillions of litres.”

That doesn’t include the subsequent runoff from the rainfall.

“Typically, we start seeing the lakes peaks shortly after the snow melt subsides. That being said, if it continues to be wet we might see a bit of delay in terms of any peak coming up.”

dajohnson@postmedia.com   
Twitter: @DaveJTheTrib



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