Why Do Ohio Lakes Lower the Water Level in Winter?
As the months get colder and colder the real estate market tends to slow down a little bit, especially the lakefront industry. But as we continue to work with clients still looking for their dream lake house to come on the market, one of the most common questions I get is ‘Why do lakes lower the water level in the winter?”. It’s a fair question and one that I had asked myself in the early stages of my career. The truth be told what makes the question even more valid is that some lakes do not lower the water every year, and some not at all. So depending on what area or lake you are from you may have a differing opinion on which route is best to take for the health of your lake. This blog isn’t about debating the validity of lowering the water level, but simply explaining the top reasons why a lake would lower the water in the first place.
To Prevent Ice Damage
At some lakes such as Apple Valley Lake, they allow permanent structures to be built by homeowners at the shore line to put a boat lift in with a roof structure over top of it. This permanent structure requires posts and beams to be put in to hold the structure in place. Now during the winter when it gets cold enough water turns to ice, and as you may know already, ice expands when it forms and in some cases it expands so rapidly the density and hardness of the ice can cause damage to structures depending on the water level. For instance, incidents have occurred like this before at lakes where an ice storm came in and expanded so quickly and violently that it easily destroyed several permanent structures along the lake. A lake may decide that for this reason alone they need to lower the water level to a certain degree, so in case a big freeze does happen it doesn’t do any damage.
Besides structures such as docks and seawalls, the damage done by ice can also be to the shoreline itself causing additional erosion than the water waves when the lake is fluid. If ice expands into a shoreline area not protected by any type of erosion protection method it may expand into the shoreline, and once it is unfrozen it can leave damage behind. Since one of the goals of lake communities is to prevent erosion, some believe the winter draw-down is necessary to help prevent it.
At most lakes in Ohio homeowners are responsible for maintaining and repairing their shoreline and erosion protection. The best time to do this is when the water is lowered so it is easier to get tools and machines into the ground to help remove damaged seawalls or to install new ones by getting down deeper into the shoreline. Some lakes, especially ones that put an emphasis on concrete seawalls may lower the water level every year to help give homeowners the chance to make the necessary repairs to prevent erosion the following year. If a lake does not put emphasis on concrete and instead is fine with a rip-rap style (loose stone) such as Candlewood Lake, they may decide that lowering the water level isn’t necessary for that reason.
Balancing aquatic vegetation is very essential in keeping a lake healthy, too much or too little can set the entire system of a lake into a downward spiral. One of the more noticeable problems with vegetation is if it grows too much in the cove areas (due to the water being more shallow) it can cause homeowners to lose some of their water access. One of the more popular ways to get rid of weeds and vegetation in coves and along the shoreline is by simply freezing it out. When lake communities lower their water level in the winter by a certain amount, and a harsh temperature drop comes through, much of the vegetation can be killed off in an easy, effective and fiscally responsible way. This allows for these coves and shorelines to be free of overgrown weeds and vegetation the following spring, restarting the cycle over again. Not to mention that some lakes can get vegetation that spreads too quickly in the warm months and can pose a risk to the lake itself such as eurasian watermilfoil. The winter draw-down is a good way to get rid of these invasive type plants.
And that in a nutshell is the easiest way to explain the top reasons why a lake community in Ohio would lower the water level in winter. If you have any questions about the benefits or negatives of winter draw-downs please contact your lakefront specialist and make sure you get all the answers you need before deciding on a lake for you and your family.
Written By Justin Shelton Lakefront Consultant – The Lake Team