Ask Abe: Lake Mendota Volume

An Alum

What is the volume of Lake Mendota?

Abe

Lake Mendota (Wonkshekhomikla in the original Ho-Chunk) is the largest of the lakes that surround Madison, but exactly how large is it? The most common way to measure the size of a lake is by using its surface area. Lake Mendota is, by far, the most expansive of the four lakes at 9,781 acres (15.3 square miles) — about three times the surface area of Lake Monona. However, finding the volume of Lake Mendota is a little less straightforward. Sources list Lake Mendota’s volume as anywhere from 389,000 acre-feet to 500 million cubic meters . Using a common scale, this translates to anywhere from 16.9 million to 17.6 million cubic feet. Either way, this is approximately the volume of any of the following: one trillion pints of Babcock ice cream, 123 billion plastic flamingos, or 676,000 UW Natatorium diving wells. No matter how you look at it, we are all in awe of the size of this lake — an absolute unit.