One for the record books?


Lake levels have fascinated us for decades

by Marianne Morf


Every job has its highs and lows.  But for Paul Fredriksen, it’s measureable.

As a member of the city’s Water Department staff for more than a quarter of a century, Fredriksen has often been responsible for tracking the water level of Clear Lake.  Clear Lake City employees have tracked the water level since the 1950s and entered the information into a log book, providing a historical tracking of the lake level.  

This year-- as Iowa suffers through a major drought and residents have watched the lake level noticeable drop, the city’s log book could be a best seller.

“We get asked about the lake level all the time,” said Fredriksen, chief operator for the Water Department.  “Our records go back to 1936, but they got much more detailed in the early 1950s when we began checking the level every week.”

At that time a U.S. Geological gauge station was located near the City Beach boat ramp and city workers had a key.  They would trek to the station and read the gauge.  Today, modern technology makes it possible for Fredriksen, or another department worker, to access the information by computer.  

The U.S. Geological gauge is now located at 15th Avenue South and Fredriksen explained the level is actually determined by an electronic gauge which sends a water pressure reading from a fixed point in the lake.  The equipment also denotes the wind direction and speed, which sometimes can influence the reading level, he added.  Using the information and a formula, the lake level is recorded.

The combination of a number of weather phenomenons this year has had a dramatic effect on the lake level this year.  But as history tells us, this isn’t the first time the lake has been extremely low.

A quick look back in the book reveals the record low water level was recorded in 1989 when the lake measured 46.20 inches below the weir.  Prior to the 1989 record low, the lowest lake level had been recorded in October 1959, when the lake was 41.42 inches below the weir.

Fredriksen said he does not believe the city’s use of lake water in its municipal supply was a factor in the low levels in 1989.

“On July 13, 1982, Well #1 went online for the first time.  We were then blending lake and well water.  We were allowed to take 24 million gallons per month off the lake when it was between 12 and 15 inches below the weir, and 12 million gallons when it was between 15 and 18 inches below.  When it was below 18 - Read More Via e-Edition

Comments are closed.