Chautauqua is committed to practicing responsible environmental stewardship and sustainability in the management of its property and as a member of the broader Chautauqua Lake Watershed community.

Current stewardship practices include recycling, composting, tree management and planting, purchase of electric trams and bio-diesel buses, Green Design standards and rewards, an energy efficiency audit and upgrades to Institution facilities, wildlife habitat preservation, and use of recycled and recyclable products.

In 2003 Chautauqua Lake was listed by New York State as “impaired waters” under the requirements of the U.S. Clean Water Act. Nutrients are the principal cause of the impairment. Storm water delivers nutrients into the lake either as phosphorus or as nitrogen contained within the chemistry of the storm water or as attachments to sediment that flows along with the storm water.

Chautauqua Institution is in a unique position to control our community’s impact on the lake. The Institution controls 100 percent of the stormwater runoff from its land without having to manage water problems presented by others.

Chautauqua Lake is critical to a strong sense of place and community for those at Chautauqua Institution and lake residents, but human impact is taking its toll.

Chautauqua Institution is committed to alleviating the stressors that are impacting Chautauqua Lake. With careful planning and dedication we are striving to minimize our impact on this beloved and important resource. Ours is a long-term commitment to improving the water quality of the lake and the natural environment in which we live.

Strategic Plan


Current Actions

  • Chautauqua Institution is currently implementing significant efforts to alleviate
  • pressure on the lake. These include:
  • Implementing a comprehensive and detailed Drainage Management Plan to reduce the amount of storm water runoff and nutrients entering the lake
  • Restoring a healthy shoreline through our Sustainable Shoreline Action Plan
  • Composting
  • Updating the Wastewater Treatment Facility
  • Improving codes and regulations to minimize runoff
  • Strengthening links to community environmental stewards
  • Planning for the future

About the Lake

About the Lake

Chautauqua Lake, at 1,308 feet above sea level, is one of the highest navigable waters in North America. It offers exceptional fishing for walleye, bass, muskellunge and several species of panfish.

Located in the southeast corner of Chautauqua County, Chautauqua Lake is about 17.5 miles long and has a surface area of 13,156 acres.

The lake is divided into two basins of nearly equal size by Bemus Point. The north basin of Chautauqua Lake averages 25 feet deep, with a maximum depth of 75 feet. The south basin is considerably shallower, with an average depth of 11 feet and a maximum depth of 19 feet.

The water from the lake drains to the south, emptying first into the Chadakoin River in Jamestown, New York before traveling east into the Conewango Creek. The creek goes south, entering

the Allegheny River in Warren, Pa. and the Ohio River in Pittsburgh and drains into the Mississippi River.

The Chautauqua Lake Watershed has likely been inhabited for 10,000-12,000 years. The first significant impacts to the lake and watershed, however, did not occur until the 19th century when deforestation and overfishing were at their peak. Warner Dam was built in 1919 and is currently used to partially regulate lake levels. Chautauqua Lake has a long history of water quality monitoring. The lake was first sampled by the New York State Conservation Department as early as 1937.

According to the Chautauqua Watershed Conservancy, 90 percent of Chautauqua Lake’s shore is now developed.