To conduct this activity you will need the following items:

  • Print out (or view of) the watershed landuse maps for Cayuga, Owasco, and Skaneateles (to print the map you may need to print to fit the page margins)
  • Sugar cube
  • Paper squares (either cut up construction paper or post-it notes)


  1. Determine the ratio of watershed area to lake volume for the Finger Lakes watersheds using the table below.

Watershed to Water Volume





Watershed Area




Lake Volume

9.3 km3

.8 km3

1.6 km3

  1. Using the sugar cube and paper squares make a model of these watersheds. The sugar cube represents one cubic kilometer of water (km3) each paper square represents one square kilometer (km2). If you do not have enough squares to create your model be creative!! Label the squares or use different colors to represent the measurement.

Note: round your ratio to the nearest number.

  1. When you have finished compare the watersheds. Which one has a greater land to water ratio?
  2. Using the landuse maps, website links listed in the lesson introduction, and link to the Finger Lakes answer the following questions:
    • Which watershed do you believe is more vulnerable to non-point source pollution and why?
    • What is the dominant landuse in the watersheds?
    • How would these landuses potentially contribute to the non-point source pollution problems of these watersheds?
    • Name two best management practices to reduce non-point source pollution in the Finger Lakes.
    • Name two economic reasons that the Finger Lakes should be protected from non-point sources of pollution.
    • There are 11 total Finger Lakes, of these which one has a similar volume of water as Skaneateles Lake?

Bonus: Research and find the watershed to volume ratio for one of the Great Lakes. Write a short essay on the location and characteristics of this watershed.

This activity was adpated from the Chesapeake Bay Foundation.