Dear Lake Resident,
Recently, I have received many questions from Wawasee and Syracuse lake residents regarding lake water
levels. As the director of Kosciusko Lakes and Streams, a water research center at Grace College, I wanted to
provide you with some answers to those questions. I have created and enclosed a fact sheet. It outlines the
factors that influence lake levels. You will also find a plot that compares the historical lake levels of Wawasee
and Syracuse lakes to the near record low lake levels of this past summer.
The first efforts to control lake levels on Wawasee and Syracuse began in 1833 when a grist mill was built to
raise the lake level about five feet. 1875 marked the beginning of scientific data collection on these lakes, but
it wasn’t until 1943 that this data included lake levels. Several low lake level years were recorded in the 1940s
and 1950s, not to be seen again until 2012.
What made 2012 special? What caused these very low lake levels? Several factors converged:
• Warmer than average temperatures led to more evaporation during the summer and the previous
winter (normally, ice cover would stop evaporation during winter)
• Lack of precipitation dried up three of the four inflowing streams, and soils were so dry that they
soaked up the little precipitation that did fall
• A lower local water table likely caused groundwater springs in lakes to reverse flow and become drains
out of the lakes
Wawasee and Syracuse lakes have unique characteristics that increase their potential to be susceptible to low
lake levels. These characteristics include a relatively small watershed compared to lake size, a complex
geology with strong connections to groundwater, and a lake level control structure which purposefully lowers
levels in the winter.
In the future, I would like to study the impact of local irrigation and alternative lake level control operations as
funds become available. In the meantime, Kosciusko Lakes and Streams will continue our ongoing and related
research on these two lakes and inflowing streams. If you would like more information on our research or to
provide your own insight on this topic, please feel free to send me an email or give me a call. Thank you for
your interest in our work.
Dear Lake Resident,