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North Pond Water Levels

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As has been expressed by many regular visitors to North Pond, water levels have seemed lower than normal this winter. The shallow appearance may be striking but is no cause for alarm.

Fluctuation in water level is normal, and is an asset to wildlife. Maybe unsightly to some, exposed pond edge provides mud for burrowing into or for nesting material as well as good hunting grounds, among countless other benefits.

Here are some explanations for why the pond looks different this season:  

  • The pond is now, despite appearances, holding far more water than prior to the restoration; however, it’s not apparent from the shore since the greatest volume is held in the 10-foot basin in the north center. This large, deepened area more than tripled the overall volume of water in the pond. 
  • While visually dramatic, especially along the newly engineered shelves, the water level is not as low as it looks. The wide, shallow stretches near the shore are designed to allow vegetation to grow in, creating a transitional zone of varied depths to support greater species diversity. Many of these aquatic planting beds will be plugged later this year, and in time, these sand drifts will become colonies of native plants.    
  • Weather patterns in the Midwest have been unusually dry. The Chicago area has experienced less than average rainfall for several consecutive seasons and this past winter has been especially warm and dry, typical of an El Niño year. Moreover, last year, the region endured the worst drought in over a decade, beginning the season with a flash drought in April that persisted into a summer of severe drought.   
  • The pond has been relying on precipitation alone for several months, as is the case when temperatures dip below freezing. Pumps that turn on automatically to fill the pond when precipitation is insufficient have been off since last autumn as part of seasonal winterization. This winterization process includes the powering down of aerators and mixers and is routine at the Park District’s ponds and lagoons. The pumps, mixers, and aerators will be turned back on later this spring.  

The dredging and shoreline grading was the first and fastest step in the long process of building sustainable habitat at North Pond. The post-construction work of restoration ecology has only just begun. It will take many years and continuing stewardship to transform the feat of hydro engineering into a thriving ecosystem. In the meantime, some structural contours may be visible during periods of low precipitation. We thank all North Pond lovers for your ongoing care and attention for this special place in the Park. Please reach out to Rafael Rosa with concerns or questions. 

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