Lake and Watershed Facts

Photo courtesy of Matt Champlin

Photo courtesy of Matt Champlin

Pure water from Skaneateles Lake flows unfiltered to more than 220,000 households. Skaneateles Lake is the primary source of water for residents in and around the City of Syracuse.

Being some 16 miles long and averaging about 3/4 miles wide, Skaneateles Lake is home to 413 billion gallons of pure water! It sits about 863 feet above sea level.

The watershed is also home to 2,600 residences, of which 1,000 are along the 35 miles of shore line. This also includes 60+ farms with about 2,000 livestock.

The relationship between the relatively small watershed and the large volume of water in Skaneateles Lake provides a kind of natural protection to the Skaneateles Lake that few other lakes enjoy. The watershed is only 59 square miles, and the lake has a surface area of 13.6 square miles, for a ratio of 4.3 acres of watershed to each acre of lake. In contrast, Oneida Lake has about 17.3 acres of watershed/acre of lake surface and Cayuga Lake has 12.2 acres of watershed/acre of lake surface. This helps to account for the long retention time of about 18 years in Skaneateles Lake.

Scientifically, Skaneateles Lake is classified as ‘oligotrophic’, or a lake with low productivity due to low levels of nutrients. This helps keep algae and other aquatic vegetation to a minimum. It also helps keeps the water so clear and transparent.

Skaneateles Lake is governed by three counties and five towns. The Counties are: Onondaga, Cayuga , and Cortland. The towns are: Skaneateles 57%, Niles 7%, Scott 14%, Spafford 19%, Sempronius 3%.