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Water Quality Monitoring
Latest Water Quality Information
Facts from the Biological Program
Fish Monitoring
Live Water Quality Data from the Lake
Monitoring Locations

Onondaga Lake: Ice Cover

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Water Quality Monitoring

WEP staff technician samples water from a tributary to Onondaga Lake
WEP staff technician samples water from a tributary to Onondaga Lake

The goal: a restored Onondaga Lake with water quality that supports recreation and nourishes the ecosystem. State and federal water quality standards are designed to protect these uses of the Onondaga Lake water resource-a resource that has been harshly abused in the past.

In addition to long-term industrial pollution and vast volumes of over-land runoff that continue to this day, another source of pollution is the treated wastewater discharged from the Metropolitan Syracuse Wastewater Treatment Plant (Metro). Because WEP is responsible for Metro, its water-quality monitoring program was devised to assay the effectiveness of the $380 million program of improvements to the collection and treatment of sewage in the Syracuse urban area. Some of these improvements are already in place and some benefits of improved water quality are already evident.

See the scope of the improvements completed.

Onondaga County measures many characteristics of Onondaga Lake and the adjacent streams to assess water quality conditions. The information helps to determine whether the lake is safe for water contact recreation and whether conditions are adequate to protect the health of the lake's community of plants and animals.

WEP personnel take samples year round, typically every week. The sewer system still has locations where raw sewage can overflow into area streams when it rains and the sewer pipes reach their capacity. Therefore, intense sampling is conducted during some storms. (As WEP's improvement program continues, these overflow problems are diminishing.)

This monitoring program will continue through this decade. Onondaga Lake's water quality is improving, and the monitoring program will continue to provide the facts needed to evaluate the effectiveness of enhancements in the collection and treatment systems.

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Overview of monitoring
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How we sample tributaries
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Sampling for nutrients

The sewage treated by Metro comes from residences, stores, industries, and storm sewers. Improvements in the treatment plant's processes are aimed at controlling nutrients.

Nutrients such as phosphorus and ammonia promote algae blooms in the water of Onondaga Lake. The algae blooms lead to drastic reductions in oxygen in the lake's waters, a condition detrimental to fish. Therefore, the AMP concentrates on:

Phosphorus, a nutrient that fosters the undesirable growth of algae in Onondaga Lake

Nitrogen from ammonia that can be toxic to plants

Dissolved oxygen, an absolute necessity to support healthy life in the lake.


Since its beginning, the AMP has issued reams of data about the lake. This information is available to the public.

Special feature: Click here to see live data from Onondaga Lake.

button For additional water quality information, please contact Jeanne Powers, 315-435-2260.


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