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Drought conditions persisting on Great Lakes

A house along Lake Ontario is surrounded by water overflowing from the lake
Veronica Volk
Great Lakes Today
This house along Lake Ontario is surrounded by overflowing lake water in 2017.

What a difference a few years make. It wasn't long ago the Great Lakes were overflowing, causing millions of dollars in damage to lakeshore properties and an uproar over how the International Joint Commission manages lake water levels. But this summer, the lakes are actually in a drought.

Officials say drought maps continue to show abnormally dry to moderate conditions, both upstream around Lake Erie and Lake Ontario and downstream along the St. Lawrence River. This is despite above average rainfall in July.

However, precipitation in recent weeks has had a positive impact.

"Normally, Lake Ontario water levels typically have begun the seasonal decline by this time of year," according to the International Lake Ontario-St. Lawrence River Board, which ensures Lake Ontario outflows meet Joint Commission requirements. "Water levels are currently at 74.80 m (245.41 ft), which is approximately 22 cm (8.7 inches) below long-term average levels for mid-July."

Water levels have risen above what is called "the low water deviation," which would have required officials to implement special measures to maintain water flow across the Great Lakes.

"Lake levels will increase if there continues to be above average rainfall and decrease if dry conditions return," the board said. "The Board will continue to monitor weather forecasts and water supply conditions and will re-evaluate the regulation strategy regularly."

A weekly water update by location on the Great Lakes
International Lake Ontario - St. Lawrence River Board