Hydrologic and climatologic factors affecting water levels of Devils Lake, North Dakota

Water-Resources Investigations Report 86-4320




High water levels of Devils Lake, North Dakota, and other terminal lakes, have, in recent years, threatened highways, agricultural land, recreational cabins, and communities located near these lakes. This study was undertaken to describe the hydrology of the Devils Lake basin and to determine how to estimate future water level probabilities.

Analysis of the available hydrologic and climatologic data indicates the water level of Devils Lake fluctuates largely in response to climatic variability. Average annual net storage gain has varied from 70 ,000 acre-feet for 1969-83 to as little as 4,530 acre-feet for 1931-40. In addition to the influence of climatic variability on the inflow to Devils Lake, an interconnected chain of lakes upstream of Devils Lake retains runoff and acts as an evaporation basin for runoff from the Devils Lake basin. During 1965-67, at least 112,000 acre-feet of water was stored in this upstream chain of lakes.

A review of research conducted on other terminal lakes indicated that the water level in these lakes fluctuated primarily in response to climate variability. There is agreement between water level fluctuations of terminal lakes in Western North America and water level fluctuations of Devils lake during times of climatic extremes.

No standardized methods are available for computing water level probabilities of terminal lakes. Most of the development of a method for determining future water level probabilities has been focused on Great Salt Lake, Utah. A number of techniques have been used to estimate the future water-level probabilities for Great Salt Lake; however, they provide a wide range in probability of occurrence for any given water level. (Author 's abstract)

Additional publication details

Publication type:
Publication Subtype:
USGS Numbered Series
Hydrologic and climatologic factors affecting water levels of Devils Lake, North Dakota
Series title:
Water-Resources Investigations Report
Series number:
Year Published:
U.S. Geological Survey
Contributing office(s):
North Dakota Water Science Center, Dakota Water Science Center
iv, 62 p.