Encyclopedia of Lakes and Reservoirs

2012 Edition
| Editors: Lars Bengtsson, Reginald W. Herschy, Rhodes W. Fairbridge

Water Balance of Lakes

  • Lars Bengtsson
Reference work entry
DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/978-1-4020-4410-6_18


The most basic in river basin hydrology is the water balance – and so it is for lakes. Most lakes have outflows, but some of the most famous lakes of the world are terminal lakes with no outflow, for example, the Caspian Sea, Lake Chad, and the Dead Sea. The water level in the overflowing lakes is rather stable, while the water level in the terminal lakes varies with the climate. In some lakes with small upstream catchment, the inflow to the lake is dominated by the precipitation on the lake, but usually inflow rivers are the dominating source of inflow to a lake. Some lakes only have subsurface inflow, but in most lakes, the most important inflow is from rivers. There also exist kettle lakes, which are part of the groundwater system with only subsurface inflow and outflow.

The water balance of a lake is
$$\begin{array}{lll} \frac{{dVOl}}{{dt}} & = A(h)\frac{{dh}}{{dt}}\\ & = {Q_{\rm{in}}} - {Q_{\rm{out}}}(h) + {Q_{\rm{gwin}}} -{Q_{\rm{gwout}}} + (P - E)\,A(h) \end{array}$$
This is a preview of subscription content, log in to check access.


  1. Belyaev, A. V., 1991. Changes in the level of the Caspian Sea and Aral Sea. In Schiller, G., Lemmelä, R., and Spreafico, M. (eds.), Hydrology of Natural and Manmade Lakes. Wallingford: IAHS, Vol. 206, pp. 45–54.Google Scholar
  2. Croley, T. E., and Lewis, C. F. M., 2008. Warmer and drier climates that make Lake Huron into a terminal lake. Aquatic Ecosystem & Health, 11, 153–160.Google Scholar
  3. Harlin, J., 1989. Proposed Swedish spillway design guidelines compared with historical flood marks at Lake Siljan. Nordic Hydrology, 20, 293–304.Google Scholar
  4. Street, F. A., 1980. The relative importance of climate and hydrogeological factors in influencing lake-level fluctuations. Palaeoecology of Africa, 12, 137–158.Google Scholar
  5. Szestay, K., 1974. Water balance and water level fluctuations of lakes. Hydrological Sciences Bulletin, 19, 73–84.Google Scholar
  6. Yin, X., and Nicholson, Sh. E., 1998. The water balance of Lake Victoria. Hydrological Sciences Journal, 43, 789–811.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Water Resources EngineeringLund UniversityLundSweden