ALERT: Harmful Algal Blooms (HABs) have been observed in the south eastern end of the lake.  LEARN MORE


Lake & Watershed Facts

In the watershed, it all flows downhill

The purity of the lake is largely a function of the watershed, the area that drains into the lake. Our watershed is relatively small, about 4.3 times the area of the lake itself. This means fewer sources of runoff and fewer miles of tributaries that can carry pollutants into the water.

The small watershed represents a big advantage in keeping the lake clean and clear, but serious threats still loom. If we think of the watershed as a giant bowl, any pollutants inside the bowl will eventually work their way to the bottom, which is the lake. Fertilizers applied to your lawn, storm water runoff, microplastics, and other chemicals – these will all flow to the lake. Once in the lake ecosystem, they are difficult and expensive
to manage.

What’s at stake?

Skaneateles Lake is the only unfiltered natural lake in New York State, and it supplies drinking water to more than 200,000 individuals in Skaneateles, the City of Syracuse, and other towns and villages in Onondaga County. In addition, thousands visit the area each year to enjoy the lake, creating jobs, generating tax revenues, and enhancing property values.

A healthy lake is literally at the center of this unique community.

Skaneateles is oligotrophic. That’s a good thing.

Thanks to its higher elevation and steep slopes, scientists classify our lake as “oligotrophic,” meaning having a low level of plant nutrients and a high level of dissolved oxygen. Generally, this helps limit the amount of algae and other aquatic vegetation, and helps keep the water clear. Working together, we can keep it that way.

Lake Facts

Watershed Boundary Map
  • Skaneateles Lake is home to 413 billion gallons of pure water!
  • The lake sits about 863 feet above sea level.
  • Skaneateles Lake flows unfiltered to more than 220,000 CNY residents. Skaneateles Lake is the primary source of water for residents in and around the City of Syracuse.
  • 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. 
  • 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, five towns, one village, and one city. The Counties are: Onondaga, Cayuga, and Cortland. The towns are: Skaneateles 57%, Niles 7%, Scott 14%, Spafford 19%, Sempronius 3%. The village is the Village of Skaneateles and the city is the City of Syracuse.