Simple Strategies to Protect Seneca Lake

Seneca Lake
Brought to you by Seneca Lake Pure Waters Association

NonPoint Source (NPS) pollution is the BIGGEST threat to Seneca Lake water. It is the result of human activity on land and the effects of water runoff when it rains. Humans have changed the landscape dramatically as land is cleared, driveways paved, and trees are removed to make way for grass lawns. The cumulative effects from such drastic changes to the landscape mean big changes to the health of the lake. This change of the natural environment to a suburban landscape, means the lake ecosystem can no longer function properly without our help.

Just as everyone is responsible for the changes in the native habitat that we now occupy, everyone can have a big impact on the quality of the lake water by helping to minimize runoff, eliminate pollutants, and capture and infiltrate runoff before water reaches the lake. Water runoff picks up pollutants and carries them to the lake.


Stormwater is water that does not soak into the ground such as rain or melting snow that flows down rooftops, over paved areas and bare soil into ditches and streams that flow into Seneca Lake.

Stormwater can be a big problem if the runoff collects and transports pollutants into the lake. Although the amount of pollutants from a single residential, commercial, industrial or construction site may seem unimportant, the combined concentrations of contaminants threatens the water quality of Seneca Lake.

Stormwater often transports one or more of the following types of pollutants:

• Nutrients such as phosphorus and nitrogen which may cause algae blooms, deplete oxygen in the waterway and be harmful to other aquatic life.

• Bacteria which may create unsafe water conditions for wading and swimming.

• Sediment and erosion clouds waterways and interferes with aquatic habitat.


We can make a difference!

We can work together to protect Seneca Lake by:

• Minimizing hard surfaces that create runoff and eliminating pollutants at their source.

• Avoiding the overuse of fertilizers, household toxins, and other chemicals.

• Preventing soil erosion and fixing failing septic systems.

• Capturing and infiltrating pollutant-carrying runoff before it reaches the lake with shoreline buffers, rain barrels, and rain gardens.

• Planting trees, bushes or a green roof.


Watershed and Water Flow Basics

Everyone lives in a watershed. A watershed is an area of land that drains water into one location such as a stream, lake or wetland. Our watershed supplies our drinking water, water for agriculture and manufacturing, offers opportunities for recreation and provides habitat to numerous plants and animals.

Seneca Lake is part of the Seneca Watershed which is found within a larger watershed called the Oswego River Watershed. The waters from Keuka Lake and Seneca Lake drain into the Cayuga-Seneca Canal at the northern end of Seneca Lake and then flows eastward past Seneca Falls, adding more water from Cayuga Lake and then flows northward joining the Barge Canal/Seneca River.

The Seneca River flows east and north until joining the west flowing Oneida River/Barge Canal at the Three Rivers Junction north of Syracuse, where the Seneca River from the west and the Oneida River from the east join to form the Oswego River which flows north to Lake Ontario.

The Seneca Lake Watershed is made up of twenty-nine sub-watersheds and direct drainages. The lake’s principal tributaries are Catharine Creek and Keuka Lake Outlet.

Catharine Creek is located at the southern end of Seneca Lake and drains more than one quarter of the entire watershed. Keuka Lake Outlet enters Seneca Lake in the middle of the western shore.

Keuka Lake Outlet drains the Keuka Lake watershed, a different watershed that influences the hydrology and water quality of Seneca Lake.

Seneca Lake Pure Waters Association was established in 1990 to promote the understanding, preservation and improvement of the water quality, natural habitat and, general environmental conditions of Seneca Lake. For more information please visit our website at:

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