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Quaboag Quacumquasit

QQLA: Quaboag/Quacumquasit Lake Association
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A Discussion of Lake Levels

(Posted 5/25/2017)

Lake Quaboag (North Pond) is a natural body of water, with no ‘dam’ or other level control device. Approximately 75-80 sq mi of ‘watershed’ contribute runoff to the lake, but rain takes many hours to trickle down. Quaboag ‘crests’ about 48 – 54 hours after a strong rain event. We’ve noticed that the lake rises about 6” for each 1” of rainfall – prior ‘ground saturation’ can increase this ratio.

The prior two QQLA newsletters have discussed details about the ‘Flow Barrier’ between North and South pond, and how the levels of the two ponds are related. Reading those will remind you that the barrier is NOT (and cannot be) used to control the level of either lake to any appreciable degree.

The level of North Pond is ‘self regulated’ by the shape of the outflow channel – this is the beginning of the Quaboag river, at the northwest corner of the lake. There is a wide, but shallow entrance to the river, which allows large amounts of water to flow when the lake is high. There is also one deep channel there which allows some flow from the lake even when the level is quite low.

The ‘absolute’ level of the lake is reported variously as 596’ – 601’ above sea level. The QQLA uses the top of the flow barrier as the ‘ZERO Datum’ … this is exactly 599.5’ … and we refer to + levels or – levels. The level of the road above the barrier is about 608’. Federal flood insurance uses a statistic called the ‘100 year flood zone’ to mean that only once in one hundred years will the water reach this level [Technical definition: “a 1% chance of flood at this level”]. Their 100 year number for our lakes is 606’ [ +6.5’ ]. However, many of us can recall SEVERAL times when the lakes exceeded this level. Historic floods during the hurricanes of 1938 and 1955 have left marks on structures 3 - 6 feet above this level. (Please share any stories of these floods for inclusion in a future newsletter!)

The most recent ‘high water’ mark was in September, 2011 which occurred a week or two after hurricane Irene passed, there being heavy rains falling on ground already saturated by the hurricane. The height of that flood reached just above the “100 Year Level” by my reckoning. During that event water entered several lake front homes, and several roads were closed.

There is no easy way to gauge the lake level accurately ‘from home’. Most property owners have their own specific gauge, such as: “when the lake gets over that stump – look out!” Numerical readings can be taken with a quick visit to the flow barrier where there is a gauge on each side of the barrier (one for each pond). Note that these are graduated in ‘tenths of a foot’ rather than inches, this makes calculating pond VOLUME easier in the units of ‘acre feet’.

When away from the lakes I use the US Geological Survey website to monitor the lake levels. There are two pertinent gauges that upload data in real time. The catch is neither are ON the lake. The best one is on the Quaboag river a few miles west (downstream). Higher lake level results in higher river levels and more flow. The other gauge is above the lake, on the 7-Mile River a few miles north-east, which helps monitor rainwater running into the lake system.

— Randy Weiss

Quaboag River: waterdata.usgs.gov/ma/nwis/uv?site_no=01176000
7-Mile River: waterdata.usgs.gov/ma/nwis/uv?site_no=01175670

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