We've made some changes to EPA.gov. If the information you are looking for is not here, you may be able to find it on the EPA Web Archive or the January 19, 2017 Web Snapshot.

Physical Features of the Great Lakes

Feature Units Lake< Superior Lake Michigan Lake Huron Lake Erie Lake Ontario Total
Average Depth
(measured at low water)
feet 483 279 195 62 283  
  meters 147 85 59 19 86  
Maximum Depth
(measured at low water)
feet 1,332 925 750 210 802  
  meters 406 282 229 64 244  
Volume
(measured at low water)
cubic miles 2,900 1,180 850 116 393 5,439
  cubic km 12,100 4,920 3,540 484 1,640 22,684
Water Area square miles 31,700 22,300 23,000 9,910 7,340 94,250
  square km 82,100 57,800 59,600 25,700 18,960 244,160
Land Drainage Area square miles 49,300 45,600 51,700
(includes St. Marys River)
30,140
(includes the St. Clair-Detroit system)
24,720
(includes the Niagara River)
201,460
  square km 127,700 118,000 134,100 78,000 64,030 521,830
Shoreline Length note
(including islands)
miles 2,726 1,638 3,827 871 712 10,210
  km 4,385 2,633 6,157 1,402 1,146 17,017
Retention Time years 191 99 22 2.6 6  

Note: Total shoreline length is greater than the sum of the shoreline length for the lakes because it includes the connecting channels (but not the St. Lawrence River).


How these statistics were calculated

Great Lakes Water Volume

Reference 1 2 3 4 Average
  Volume in cubic km
Lake Superior 12,100 12,230 11,600 12,088 12,004
Lake Michigan 4,920 4,920 4,680 4,918 4,860
Lake Huron 3,540 3,537 3,580 3,543 3,550
Lake Erie 484 483 545 484 499
Lake Ontario 1,640 1,637 1,710 1,638 1,656
Lake St. Clair n/a n/a n/a 4 4
Totals 22,684 22,807 22,115 22,675 22,573

References

  1. Coordinated Great Lakes Physical Data. Coordinating Committee on Great Lakes Basic Hydraulic and Hydrologic Data. Chicago, IL and Cornwall, ON. p. 9. (1977).
  2. Large Lakes Ecological Structure and Function. Max M. Tilzer and Colette Serruya, eds. Springer-Verlag. Berlin-Heidelberg, p 26 (1990) [Derived from Inventory of the Morphometric and Limnological Characteristics of the Large Lakes of the World. Charles E. Herdendorf, The Ohio State University. Technical Bulletin OHSU-TB-17, Sea Grant Program. March 1984. p. 67.]
  3. Atlas of World Water Balance (Explanatory Text). USSR National Committee for the International Hydrological Decade, Leningrad, p 32.(1977)
  4. The Water Encyclopedia, 2nd Edition. F. van der Leeden, F.L. Troise and D.K. Todd. Lewis Publishers, USA. p. 188. (1990)

World Fresh Surface Water Volume

Reference 1 2 3 4 Average
  Volume in cubic km
Freshwater lakes 86,499 125,000 91,000 100,000 100,625
Rivers 2,115 1,250 2,120 1,700 1,796
Reservoirs 4,286 n/a n/a n/a 4,286
Totals 92,900 126,250 93,120 101,700 106,707

References

  1. WCMC Biodiversity Series No. 8. Freshwater Biodiversity: a preliminary global assessment. UNEP-WCMC. (From Annon. USSR Committee for the International Hydrological Decade. 1978). http://www.unep-wcmc.org/index.html?http://www.unep-wcmc.org/information_services/publications/freshwater/1.htm~main
  2. Water in Crisis, A Guide to the World's Fresh Water Resources. Peter H. Gleick Ed. Pacific Institute for Studies in Development, Environment, and Security. Stockholm Environmental Institute. Oxford University Press. 1993. p. 120.['Nace 1967 cited in Reference 2. p. 120.]
  3. UNESCO 1974 cited in Reference 2. p. 120.
  4. WRI 1988 cited in Reference 2. p. 120.