Otisco Lake, the smallest and easternmost of New York State 's Finger Lakes, is the source of water supply for several villages in Onondaga County. In recent years, turbidity and algal blooms have periodically impaired the lake 's use for both water supply and recreation. Principal land uses within the Otisco Lake basin are woodland (39%) and cropland (49%). Conservation practices such as contour farming, strip cropping, and diversion ditches are applied to about 47% of the cropland in the basin. Runoff and concentrations of sediment and nutrients in the five major tributaries, which together drain about 70% of the lake 's watershed, were monitored from November 1981 through September 1983, and sediment and nutrient loads from the ungaged areas of the watershed were estimated. Otisco Lake received 10,600 tons of sediment, 20,600 lbs of phosphorus asp, 199,000 lbs of total kjeldahl nitrogen as N, and 236,000 lbs of nitrite plus nitrate as N from the five tributaries and the ungaged area during the 23-month study. Spafford Creek basin (12.0 sq mi) contributed about 72% of the annual sediment load and 46% of the annual nutrient load; the other four subbasins, which range from 2.6 to 3.7 sq mi in area, each contributed 3 to 5% of the annual sediment load and 6 to 16% of the annual nutrient load. The ungaged part of the watershed contributed 12% of the annual sediment load and 28% of the annual nutrient load. Concentrations of ammonia as N were relatively uniform through the year, although some extremely high concentrations occurred during the summer. Total Kjeldahl nitrogen concentrations were highest in the summer and lowest in the fall. Concentrations of nitrite plus nitrate were significantly lower in winter than in the rest of the year. Total phosphorus concentrations were slightly higher in the spring than at other times, and concentrations of dissolved phosphorus were slightly higher in the summer. Storms and snowmelt accounted for 70 to 90% of the runoff, 90 to 99% of the sediment load, and 70 to 98% of the nutrient loads from the tributaries. The largest nutrient loads occurred during the spring of each year, when runoff was highest. About 70% of the sediment, 60% of total Kjeldahl nitrogen, 58% of total phosphorus, and 53% of nitrite plus nitrate were transported during spring high flows. (Lantz-PTT)
Paschal, James E. and Sherwood, Donald A., "Relation of Sediment and Nutrient Loads to Watershed Characteristics and Land Use in the Otisco Lake Basin, Onondaga County, New York" (1987). Government Documents. 19.