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Latest Water Quality Information
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Live Water Quality Data from the Lake
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Onondaga Lake: Ice Cover

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Archive: AMP Reports
Archive: AMP Data Sets


Celebrating a Decade of Improvements


Advanced wastewater treatment upgrades in 2004 and 2005 dramatically improved water quality conditions in Onondaga Lake. The lake will continue to benefit from ongoing optimization of treatment processes at the Metropolitan Syracuse Wastewater Treatment Plant (Metro).

The Onondaga County Save the Rain (STR) Program has been in effect for 9 years. The County has completed construction of all gray infrastructure projects required in the ACJ, including milestone projects such as the Clinton and Lower Harbor Brook Storage Facilities.  The gray infrastructure projects are enhanced by the County’s use of green infrastructure.  Indeed, the combination of the two technologies has succeeded in exceeding the CSO program’svolume capture goals. Going forward, the County will focus on optimizing the performance of its CSO control facilities, while continuing to implement green infrastructure in priority areas, perform maintenance on both gray and green facilities, implement best management practices (BMPs) and floatables control measures, and monitor system performance.  Green infrastructure solutions are being implemented at County facilities and in other urban areas to help capture and reuse urban storm runoff before it enters the CSO system.  It was estimated that the annual combined sewage percent capture in 2016 exceeded 97.6%, which above the goal for 2018.






Water quality conditions in the northern two-thirds of Onondaga Lake were suitable for swimming throughout the summer of 2015. Although there is no public bathing beach at Onondaga Lake, bacteria levels and water clarity consistently meet regulatory standards for swimming throughout most of the lake.


And An Improving Fish Community…


Changes in the fish community of Onondaga Lake have occurred as water quality and habitat conditions have improved. Fish communities are good indicators of aquatic ecosystem conditions because they integrate physical, chemical, and biological conditions and express them in terms of species composition, age and growth characteristics, and reproductive success. The Largemouth Bass is one of Onondaga Lake’s largest fish, and the most popular sport fish.

Additionally, species richness has gradually increased since 2000. A total of 30 adult species were captured during the adult fish community survey in 2015. Since 2000, more than 166,000 individual fish have been captured or observed from Onondaga Lake by Onondaga County’s sampling efforts, representing fifty-three species.


Progress Report
Fish Information



Restoring our Waters
Click on Report above to view (.pdf)




The County’s Save the Rain program supports innovative stormwater management. Onondaga County is conducting a phased program of combined sewer overflow (CSO) remediation with the goal of capturing or eliminating no less than 95% of CSO volume by 2018. This goal was achieved in 2014, four years ahead of schedule. To meet this goal, the County initiated the Save the Rain program, which is implementing green and gray infrastructure for removal of stormwater from the combined sewer system through green infrastructure projects, CSO storage with conveyance to Metro, and elimination of CSO discharge points.


To-date, 180 green infrastructure projects have been completed as part of the “Save the Rain” initiative (http://savetherain.us/), reducing inputs of stormwater runoff and pollution to Onondaga Lake and its tributaries by 123 million gallons annually and providing CSO reduction of approximately 59 million gallons per year according to SWMM simulations.  Eleven green infrastructure projects were completed as part of the “Save the Rain” program in 2015.  These projects included replacement of traditional pavement with porous pavement, construction of green roofs, installation of bioretention and infiltration systems, removal of pavement from some areas, and other techniques to reduce stormwater runoff.  A new County campaign called “Connect the Drops” is engaging the community to help clean up and prevent litter (floatables) from reaching the tributaries and Onondaga Lake. 



Ambient Monitoring Program

In 1998, an Amended Consent Judgment (ACJ) between Onondaga County, New York State and Atlantic States Legal Foundation was signed to resolve a lawsuit filed against Onondaga County for violations of the Clean Water Act. The lawsuit alleged that discharges from the Metropolitan Syracuse Wastewater Treatment Plant (Metro) and overflows from the combined sewer system (CSOs) precluded Onondaga Lake from meeting its designated best use. The ACJ obligates the County to undertake a phased program of wastewater collection and treatment improvements that will extend though the year 2012, monitor water quality response, and report annually on progress towards compliance.

The Ambient Monitoring Program (AMP) is Onondaga County’s comprehensive program to evaluate the quality of the waterways and track changes brought about by the improvements to the wastewater collection and treatment infrastructure and reductions in watershed sources of nutrients. As described above, the ACJ obligates Onondaga County to conduct this annual monitoring program.

AMP 5-Year Workplan The County's five-year AMP Work plan, covering 2014 to 2018, is intended to comply with the requirements of the Fourth Stipulation to the ACJ and the State Pollution Discharge Elimination System (SPDES) permit for the Metropolitan Syracuse Wastewater Treatment Plant (Metro).

Key Provisions of the ACJ

The ACJ is designed to improve the water quality of Onondaga Lake and achieve full compliance with state and federal water quality regulations by December 1, 2012. The ACJ specifically includes a listing of over thirty projects to be undertaken over 15 years. Although completion of the entire project is not required until 2012. The ACJ was further amended (4th Stipulation) on November 16, 2009, extending the AMP through 2018.

The ACJ describes the intent of each project and sets time schedules for specific work related to each project to be completed. These milestones relate to such activities as completion of environmental review, start of construction, and commencement of operation.

The projects can be divided into three main categories:

  • Improvement and upgrading of the County's main sewage treatment plant (Metro)
  • Eliminating and/or decreasing the effects of the combined sewer overflows on the lake and its tributaries
  • A lake and tributary monitoring program designed to evaluate the effects of the improvement projects on the water quality of the lake and tributary streams.
  • The latest:

Onondaga Lake Amended Consent Judgment Compliance Program Monthly Report



Largemouth Bass Caught in Onondaga Lake
AMP Sampling Team with Largemouth Bass caught in Onondaga Lake

Onondaga Lake is on the road to recovery.
  Multiple efforts are underway to restore Onondaga Lake, and the lake is responding with greatly improved water quality and habitat conditions. These efforts include major improvements to the wastewater collection and treatment system, reductions in stormwater runoff, and remediation of industrial wastes.

For decades, Onondaga County Department of Water Environment Protection has monitored lake conditions. The Ambient Monitoring Program (AMP) provides a scientific basis for answering important questions about the lake.

  • How have the remedial efforts affected the lake?
  • Is the lake suitable for recreational uses?
  • Does the lake support a healthy aquatic community?

The answers to these questions are now evident. Nutrient concentrations are in steep decline, algal blooms have essentially disappeared, and oxygen levels are greatly improved. The lake supports a healthy balance of plants and animals. Interest in the lake as a recreational resource has surged.


2017 Annual Report: Onondaga Lake Ambient Monitoring Program (Feb 2019)


2017 AMP Annual Report - Appendix Package (Compressed File)

2017 AMP Annual Report - Figures Package (Compressed File)

Through its Ambient Monitoring Program (AMP), WEP is capturing data that is indispensable to answering critical questions about the chemical, physical, and biological nature of Onondaga Lake and its tributaries (Onondaga Creek, Nine Mile Creek, Harbor Brook, Ley Creek, Tributary 5A) as well as the Seneca River system.


  WEP's AMP team catches a fish

A member of WEP's team netting a Largemouth Bass

Bouy Image Live data from Onondaga Lake.

WEP personnel are constantly checking the state of the water quality in the lake, the streams flowing into it, and the Seneca River to assess the health of the lake's ecosystem.

Required by state and federal regulations, the AMP also measures the effectiveness of a 15-year WEP plan to improve to the collection and treatment of sewage. Engineers, scientists, and regulators will use the data gathered to see if these efforts are restoring the water's quality and the surrounding habitat. They use the data, too, to see if further improvements are needed to meet water quality standards and community goals for this resource.



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