Straight from the Tap

Record Lake Erie Levels Creating Issues – But Not For Your Drinking Water

07/02/2019

June was another record-setting month for Lake Erie water levels.

In May, Lake Erie hit its highest monthly average water level since 1918 at 574.3 feet above sea level. That record didn’t hold long thanks to 8+ inches of rainfall in June (4.65 in. above normal) that resulted in an average water level of 574.6 feet.

The last week of June tracked water levels above 574.7 feet each day, 2.73 feet above average for June and nearly a foot higher than the same month last year. The increased lake levels mean there’s an additional 5.6 trillion gallons of water in Lake Erie.

The high lake levels are causing issues throughout Ohio and the Great Lakes region including flooding and shoreline erosion. Lake Erie's high waters also pose a danger to boaters since objects like break walls and rocks that are normally visible above the water have become submerged. 

Yet, our ability to safely treat and deliver your water has not been impacted. This is due in part to the location of the raw water pump stations that move water from Lake Erie to our treatment plants. Each of our four water treatment plants has its own raw water pump, with two of the four located near the lake’s shoreline.

The Kirtland Pump Station on South Marginal Road near East 49th Street is our lowest pump station in elevation. This pump station feeds water 4.8 miles away and about 200 feet up in elevation to our Baldwin Water Treatment Plant.

When the original Kirtland Pump Station started pumping water in 1904, the site was adjacent to Lake Erie. In the early 1900s, Cleveland Water built breakwaters to protect the pump station’s land. Today, several structures and a multi-lane interstate separate the pump station from the water.

About a foot higher in elevation than Kirtland is the Garrett A. Morgan Water Treatment Plant, located along the Shoreway near West 45th Street. Its raw water pump station sits on the south shore of the Old Cuyahoga River channel. Water elevations in the Old River generally mirror that of Lake Erie. But Whiskey Island and the west end of Cleveland Harbor’s breakwater protect the pump station from the impact of waves.    

You can find daily Great Lakes water level data on the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers' website. All summer long we'll continue monitoring lake levels, temperature, and other parameters to ensure the quality of water flowing out of your tap doesn’t change.

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