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Center for Operational Oceanographic Products and Services

Great Lakes Water Level Data


CO-OPS operates water level and meteorological monitoring stations for the oceans and Great Lakes coasts. Historic records for some of the Great Lakes stations date back to 1860, providing over 150 years of continuous data. The Canadian Hydrographic Service also maintains water level monitoring stations along the Canadian coast line on the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence River. Together, CO-OPS and Canadian gauges provide water level data used by the International Joint Commission for bilateral management of the Lakes.

Great Lakes Water Level Stations Get an Upgrade

Oct. 19, 2011
Fishing Vessel

View of the new Holland, Michigan water level and meteorological station, located at the entrance to Macatawa Bay. Historic water level data has been collected in this vicinity since 1894.

A new water level station in Holland, Michigan brings closer the goal of modernizing aging equipment in the Great Lakes region.

Image of both the primary and redundant shaft angle encoders (gauges) at Holland used to measure the water levels of Lake Michigan

Image of both the primary and redundant shaft angle encoders (gauges) at Holland used to measure the water levels of Lake Michigan.

Since 2005, the Center for Operational Oceanographic Products and Services (CO-OPS) has worked with their regional partners to complete a series of infrastructure upgrades to eight water level stations in the Great Lakes region of the United States. These upgrades are critical to replace aging infrastructure and ensure continued data acquisition.

The stations are part of a water level and meteorological information network used by a diverse group including the commercial shipping industry, recreational boaters, hydropower companies, and the international government agencies tasked with international regulation and resource management. The water level data is also used to maintain the International Great Lakes Datum – a coordinated universal datum used by both the U.S. and Canada for all water level data measurements.

Construction of the new Holland station started in June 2009

Construction of the new Holland station started in June 2009.

Last year, CO-OPS, supported by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Detroit District office, began construction on a new water level station at the entrance to Macatawa Bay, Lake Michigan in Holland, Michigan. This station replaces a water level station operating at that location since 1959.

The new station has been collecting water level data, along with newly added meteorological data, simultaneously with the older station to ensure data continuity. Great Lakes water level stations are specially designed to withstand challenging winter ice to enable continuous year round data collection.

This new station will provide modernized and highly reliable data acquisition to the Great Lakes community for the next 50 years or more. On September 9, 2011, this station titled Holland, Michigan on Lake Michigan, the sixth of these station upgrades, was completed and declared officially operational. By October 2012, all eight stations will be officially operational.