Why parts of the Genesee River sometimes obtain a ‘murky’ color compared to Lake Ontario

Weather Blog

ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WROC) — Have you ever noticed how the Genesee River can take on a brownish color every so often? It’s not a weird coincidence, and it’s not that unusual either.

This often happens whenever sediments or other substances within the river basin get stirred up by boats, heavy rainfall or other movement throughout the channel.

You can see the distinct difference between the river itself and where it meets the “bluer” Lake Ontario in the snapshot below:

The Genesee River is a tributary to Lake Ontario, meaning it’s a river that flows into a larger body of water such as a lake.

This river specifically discharges to a Federal navigation channel at the Rochester harbor as well as the Mount Morris Dam and Reservoir, and it also happens to be a Federal flood damage reduction reservoir.

The river watershed covers over 2,000 square miles and runs through counties such as Monroe, Orleans, Genesee, Wyoming, Livingston, Ontario, Allegany, Steuben and Cattaraugus county.

It even flows into parts of Potter county in Pennsylvania.The elevation of this river varies from sitting at just a couple hundred feet to a couple thousand feet (237 to 2500 feet to be exact).

Image courtesy: greatlakesrsm.net

According to the Great Lakes Commission, “land use within the watershed is approximately 52 percent agricultural, 40 percent forested, 4 percent urban, 2 percent wetlands or water, 1 percent transportation, and 1 percent rangeland.”

The mineral phosphorous can be contributed to the murky appearance as rain and weathering over time causes rocks to release phosphate ions and other minerals, which is then distributed throughout the soils and water.

It’s much easier to tell the difference in colors, because the channel is much smaller compare to the vastly larger and deeper Lake Ontario where any sediment can spread out a lot easier.

Something my dad aways said to me was that the “solution to pollution is dilution.” That statement runs true when discussing the difference between these bodies of water. Lake Ontario has much more space for any sediment in it to spread out, so the larger volume of water acts to dilute sediment.

~Meteorologist Christine Gregory

Copyright 2021 Nexstar Media Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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