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A Beginner's Guide to Water Management—Lake Morphometry



Just as physicians rely on their knowledge of human anatomy to understand a patient better, we can learn a great deal about how a lake functions by studying its morphometry -- the size and shape of the lake basin. For example, familiarity with a lake's morphometric features can help explain why one lake has more phytoplankton (algae) than another or why some lakes have more macrophytes (large aquatic plants) than others. It can even be helpful in anticipating changes that may occur due to management practices or prevailing weather patterns. Knowledge of the morphometry of lakes can also help us appreciate lakes for what they are and manage them with more realistic expectations. This circular is 32 pages in length and is recommended for anyone interested in learning more about the terminology and techniques currently being used to study lakes in Florida. Topics include:

  • How Lakes Are Formed
  • Bathymetric Maps and What They Tell Us About Lakes
  • Commonly Measured Morphometric Features and What They Tell Us About Lakes
  • Wind Waves and Water Mixing in Lakes
  • Appendix A: Measuring Lake Surface Area
  • Appendix B: Measuring Lake Volume

Note: Circular 104 is available in Portable Document Format (pdf) only. It can be obtained as a single PDF file by clicking on the "Printer Friendly Version" link above (file size = 2.2 MB).

Keywords: Anatomy of a lake, aquatic plants, bathymetric map, coastal dune lakes, currents, depression lakes, dilution capacity, dynamic ratio, fetch, hypsographic curves, lake morphometry, maximum depth, maximum length, maximum width, mean depth, mean width, nutrient transport, oxygen, planimeter, reservoir, resuspension, river lakes, sediment, shoreline, shoreline development, shoreline length, sinkholes, solution lakes, surface area, temperature, turbulence, turbulent flow, volume, water column, water mixing, water quality, wave disturbance, waves, wind velocity.

Publication #Cir104

Release Date:November 17, 2020

Reviewed At:October 25, 2022

Fact Sheet

About this Publication

This document, CIR 104, is the fourth of a series of information circulars dedicated to familiarizing citizens with the language and techniques used by those involved in water management within the state of Florida. First printed in April 2001. This is the second edition, published in September 2001. Reviewed by Mark Hoyer June 2020. Printed copies are available through UF/IFAS Extension and/or from the LAKEWATCH program itself. However, they may also be downloaded by visiting the EDIS website at or the Florida LAKEWATCH website at

About the Authors

Florida LAKEWATCH is a research program coordinated within the UF/IFAS Department of Fisheries and Aquatic Sciences. LAKEWATCH facilitates public involvement in the management of Florida waters by training citizen volunteers to collect monthly water samples, algae samples, and water clarity information from a lake or waterbody of their choice. Over time, these data are used to document nutrient levels and to predict biological productivity. For more information about the monitoring program or to obtain LAKEWATCH data, call 1-800-LAKEWATCH (1-800-525-3928) or search the website at Photos used with permission as credited.


  • Mark Hoyer