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Latest Water Quality Information

2014 Update - Onondaga Lake Progress Report

Celebrating a Decade of Improvements



Advanced wastewater treatment upgrades in 2004 and 2005 dramatically improved water quality conditions in Onondaga Lake. The lake will continue to benefit from ongoing optimization of treatment processes at the Metropolitan Syracuse Wastewater Treatment Plant (Metro).

The Clinton and Lower Harbor Brook storage facilities were fully operational in 2014, collecting 113 million gallons of combined sewage during storms and routing it to Metro for state-of-the-art treatment. It was estimated that the annual combined sewage percent capture in 2014 exceeded 95%, which is the goal for 2018.


The Onondaga County Save the Rain (STR) Program has been in effect for 5 years. Since its inception, the program has developed a comprehensive network of gray and green infrastructure solutions to manage stormwater runoff that help protect Onondaga Lake and its tributaries. This balanced approach has positioned Onondaga County as a national model for sustainable stormwater management. A number of green infrastructure projects were completed in 2014, including the East Washington Street Green Corridor and the Rainwater Harvesting System at the Carrier Dome.

Onondaga County’s Save the Rain program made substantial progress in 2014. Since 2010, 169 green infrastructure projects have been completed as part of the Save the Rain initiative, reducing inputs of stormwater and pollution to Onondaga Lake and its tributaries by 108 million gallons annually. Save the Rain raises awareness of effective ways to improve the environment by using rain barrels, rain gardens, green roofs, porous pavement, cisterns, and vegetated swales. Go to www.savetherain.us for more details.




Water quality conditions in the northern two-thirds of Onondaga Lake were suitable for swimming throughout the summer of 2014. Although there is no public bathing beach at Onondaga Lake, bacteria levels and water clarity consistently meet regulatory standards for swimming throughout most of the lake. (Figure 1.) As documented in the technical report “Attainment of Designated Uses in Onondaga Lake”, the bacteria and water clarity data indicate that a beach located at Willow Bay would have been open continuously during the summer months since 2008.


Figure 1. Water Quality Conditions


And An Improving Fish Community…


Changes in the fish community of Onondaga Lake have occurred as water quality and habitat conditions have improved. Fish communities are good indicators of aquatic ecosystem conditions because they integrate physical, chemical, and biological conditions and express them in terms of species composition, age and growth characteristics, and reproductive success. The Largemouth Bass is one of Onondaga Lake’s largest fish, and the most popular sport fish. In 2014 Largemouth Bass catch rates were 50 fish captured per hour, second only to those reported in 2013 species (Figure 2.)

Additionally, species richness has gradually increased since 2000. A total of 26 adult species were captured during the adult fish community survey in 2014 (Figure 3). Since 2000, more than 166,000 individual fish have been captured or observed from Onondaga Lake by Onondaga County’s sampling efforts, representing fifty-three species.


Figures 2 & 3




The “Onondaga Lake Lounge”, a 1,350-square-foot wooden deck that will be built at the end of the Onondaga Creekwalk near Destiny USA, will have tiered seating to offer views of the lake and Onondaga Creek. Construction is expected to begin in 2015.


St. Joseph’s Health Amphitheater at Lakeview


St. Joseph’s Health Amphitheater at Lakeview Facility, an outdoor event complex located on the western shore of Onondaga Lake, will host its first concert during the 2015 New York State Fair. The facility will include an amphitheater with both covered and lawn seats, a vendor area, recreational trails and amenities.



2015 Annual Report:

Onondaga Lake Ambient Monitoring Program (Feb-2017)



2015 Annual Report: Onondaga Lake Ambient Monitoring Program (January 2017)


2015 Annual Report: Onondaga Lake Ambient Monitoring Program (Feb 2017)


2015 AMP Annual Report Downloadable Report Package - Includes Data Files (Compressed File)


image Comments on this report are encouraged and may be directed to Jeanne Powers. Click here to email, or phone 315-435-2260.


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