How Much Water is in Lake Erie?

The shore of Lake Erie.

Among the five Great Lakes of North America, Lake Erie is the fourth largest and thirteenth largest in the world by surface area. Lake Erie is the warmest, shallowest, has the smallest volume, and the shortest lake water retention time among the Great Lakes. This lake has an average depth of 62 feet and a maximum depth of 210 feet. Lengthwise, the lake measures 209 nautical miles and a breadth of 50 nautical miles whereas the surface measures 9,990 square miles at an elevation of 571 feet above sea level. The total drainage basin area of the lake is 30,140 square miles measured by combining all its drainage basin areas in the five states and one Canadian province. With a total shoreline of 871 miles, the amount of water in the lake ranges between 115.2 cubic miles to 116 cubic miles.


Situated below Lake Huron and bordering both the US and Canada, Lake Erie has its borders within the US states of New York, Ohio, Michigan, and Pennsylvania as well as the Canadian Province of Ontario. To the east, the lake borders Buffalo, NY and Toledo, OH to the west. Cleveland, OH and Erie, PA forms the southern shore of the lake. Being a freshwater lake, Detroit River accounts for between 80% to 90% of the lake’s inlet from the upper lakes and other tributaries while the outlet is Niagara River. Most of Lake Erie’s water comes from lakes Michigan, Huron, and Superior through the Detroit River and outlets through the Niagara River which has Niagara Falls. These falls injects hydroelectric power to the US and Canadian power grids. Estimates indicate that over eleven million people depend on the lake for drinking water.

The Environment

Lake Erie produces lake effect snow during the passing of first cold winds of winter over the lake’s warm waters making its surroundings one of the snowiest places in the US. This effect has caused the lake’s surface to freeze several times in history. The lake has strong winds that usually lead to changing of currents which in turn shift sediments at the bottom of Lake Erie. Flourishing agricultural activities like fruit and vegetable farming around the lake are as a result of the lake’s microclimate. Evaporation of water from the lake ranges from 34 to 36 inches annually, a factor that contributes to precipitation around Lake Erie. This lake and its shoreline are sources of a variety of minerals like salt, sand, limestone, and gypsum as well as deposits of natural gas under the lake.

Threats to Lake Erie

Lake Erie is the most biologically diverse and active of the Great Lakes and has many Flora and Fauna species under constant threat by human activities like ship traffic and pollution. For starters, invasive species like the goby, grass carp, and zebra mussels have led to shifting the balance of some species with the likes of the smallmouth bass increasing while some fish species reducing. Furthermore, Lake Erie has fewer wetlands to filter what goes into it, consequently, chemicals from fertilizers used in nearby firms find their way into the lake further shifting the balance of organisms and oxygen as well as increasing threats to endangered species and advancing the growth of algal blooms.

Facts About Lake Erie

Lake Erie has over 26 islands, however, due to the constantly changing water elevation, this number shifts upwards or downwards. Canada’s Port Stanley on the lake’s northern shores is popular with tourists and offers activities like boating, swimming, fishing, and train rides. Together with this, the whole lake provides one of the best sport fishing experience in the world. Historically, cities like Cleveland, Toledo, Sandusky, Erie, and Buffalo grew as a result of trade and transport routes on the lake. During the Battle of Lake Erie of 1813 at River Raisin National Battlefield Park, US Navy defeated British Navy on the lake to take control of it and Detroit even after the US remaining with only 33 men out of the 934 that fought the battle.


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