Snowmelt expected to bring water levels upPublished 11:00am Tuesday, April 2, 2013
Fall drought conditions left many lawns brown and lakes lower than usual. But with this winter’s snowfall, lower lake levels may return to previous normal levels or higher.
“Lake levels dropped late last summer and fall due to low precipitation and evaporation,” said DNR Hydrologist Julie Aadland. “Lake levels will rebound this spring with runoff. Some landlocked lakes, those without outlets, may experience water levels that are higher than desirable again this spring.”
Aadland, who has been with the DNR for 22 years, said the reversal from last summer will mean plenty of water entering the Otter Tail River Watershed. With residents in the Fargo-Moorhead area preparing for flooding, Aadland said that any flooding in Otter Tail County and the surrounding area should be under control.
“There is a considerable amount of water in the snowpack,” said Aadland. “We are fortunate in the Otter Tail River Watershed to have many lakes and wetlands that provide storage for runoff water. The storage attenuates flow and reduces peak flows. Flooding in the Otter Tail River watershed upstream of Orwell Reservoir should be localized and related primarily to overland runoff during the spring snow melt.”
While Aadland and the DNR can determine water levels by gauging the amount of snow on the ground, any high water after the spring will come as a result of the summer’s weather conditions.
“The extent of flooding will depend on the rate of melt and the amount of precipitation we receive during the melt,” said Aadland. “Lake levels are directly related to precipitation patterns. Future lake level conditions will largely depend on rainfall amounts, but it appears that drought conditions are expected to lessen this spring.”
The DNR keeps track of water levels on many of the lakes in the area. With an extensive record dating back several decades, Aadland said some of the information that the DNR collects is available to residents and lake property owners online.
“We have an extensive database of water levels going back to the 1930s on some lakes,” said Aadland. “Some of this information can be found on our website under the ‘LakeFinder’ application. We use the information to evaluate current lake conditions in the context of historical lake levels. The information can be used to better understand the hydrologic cycle and hydrology of a watershed.”