Onondaga Lake

Onondaga Lake is experiencing a remarkable recovery – due in large part to the investments in green/gray infrastructure and upgrades to the County’s state-of-the-art Metropolitan Wastewater Treatment Facility (Metro). As a result, water quality in the Lake and its tributaries has greatly improved. The Lake ecosystem is thriving and is now home to a diverse and abundant fish community. Follow the link below to read about Onondaga Lake’s rich history and its path to restoration.  Onondaga Lake has once again become an asset to our community!

Over the last decade, water quality in Onondaga Lake has improved dramatically. These improvements are a direct result of many actions taken by the County, such as:

  • $173 million in investment upgrades at the Metropolitan Wastewater Treatment Plant (Metro). These upgrades included advanced ammonia and phosphorus removal. As a result, ammonia levels in Metro’s treated outflow dropped by 98% and phosphorus levels dropped by 80%.
  • Improvements to the sewer system, including sewer separation projects that have resulted in the elimination of 13 combined sewer overflow outfalls
  • Implementation of over 200 green infrastructure projects in the combined sewershed. These projects soak up about 154 million gallons of stormwater each year. This helps to prevent combined sewer overflows and keeps pollutants from entering Onondaga Lake.

More information about these and other improvements can be found in the “Restoring Our Waters” documents below:

Today, Onondaga Lake resembles other regional lakes with respect to number of fish species present, the extent of aquatic vegetation and summertime water clarity. Since 2000, more than 149,000 individual fish and 66 species of fish have been identified in the Lake through the County’s sampling efforts.  Once rarely caught, brown trout now persist in the Lake throughout most of the year due to improving dissolved oxygen levels.

Lower phosphorus levels in the lake have resulted in fewer and less sever algal blooms. In fact, a bloom has not occurred in Onondaga Lake since 2007. Onondaga Lake is unique in that much of it’s shoreline is publically owned. There are many projects underway designed to connect the Lake with the City of Syracuse and surrounding areas through trails, parkland and destination venues. Members of the community are once again beginning to view the Lake as an asset and recreational activities are returning to the Lake and its shores.

The health of Onondaga Lake is directly related to the County’s Save the Rain program! Today’s celebration of the Lake is the culmination of decades of hard work and commitment. We have reached a watershed moment!  As we look to the future, we recognize the positive impact that a clean Onondaga Lake can have on this region, and we are committed to preserving this natural resource for future generations.

Did you know that the County met its legal compliance goals for stormwater capture 4 years ahead of schedule? Stay up to date with the Lake’s progress by reading the Outreach Newsletters below: Fall 2018 Newsletter

Summer 2018 Newsletter

 Fall 2018 Newsletter


Learn more about the county’s monitoring program as well as the revitalization of the Onondaga Lake West Shore.