Hydrologic Factors Affecting Lake-Level, Fluctuations in Big Marine Lake, Washington County, Minnesota

A study by the U.S. Geological Survey from 1981 through 1984, in cooperation with the Carnelian-Marine Watershed District and the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, investigated the causes of large lake-level fluctuations at Big Marine Lake. Historic records document that Big Marine Lake has changed substantially in surface area during the period 1847 through 1983; the maximum lake-surface area was 2,300 acres in 1847, and the minimum lake-surface area was 890 acres in 1938. A change in lake level of about 11 feet caused these changes in surface area. Serious flooding of lake-shore properties has occurred in recent years because residential development commonly took place during periods of relatively low-lake level during the 1950's and 1960 f s. Evaporation from the lake was estimated to be approximately equal to incident precipitation on the lake surface on an annual basis. Big Marine Lake does not have a surface-water inlet, and the outlet from the lake is at an elevation well above the stage at which lake-shore property is flooded. Hydrogeologic and geochemical data collected during the study show that (1) fluctuation of water levels at Big Marine Lake is controlled primarily by ground-water discharge to and seepage from the lake, (2) water in the drift aquifer and water in the lake are chemically similar, and (3) changes in the potentiometric surface of the bedrock aquifer have minor effects on changes in lake level. Long-term trends in cumulative departure from mean annual precipitation suggest that recharge to the drift aquifer in the area has been increasing since the 1940's. The increase in precipitation and recharge corresponds to the observed rise in lake level since 1965 when regular lake-level measurements began. Fluctuations in lake level in the future will depend on changes in recharge to the drift and bedrock aquifers, which is directly related to changes in long-term precipitation patterns.
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U.S. Geological Survey
Body of Water
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Minnesota Water Research Digital Library
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