KU’s Potter Lake to undergo $1.2 million renovation this summer to increase its depth and reduce its lily pads

photo by: Tim Seley/KU Marketing

Potter Lake on the University of Kansas' Lawrence campus is shown in this undated photo.

Potter Lake, the signature body of water on KU’s Lawrence campus, is set to get a major renovation this summer, the university has announced.

Work will begin soon to dredge the lake, which is uphill from KU’s football stadium and downhill from the university’s Campanile. The project aims to restore the lake closer to its original depth of 18 feet, and also rebuild a portion of the wall that runs along the edge of the water.

The removal of years of sediment from the lake will be one of the most important aspects of the $1.2 million project because it is expected to improve the lake’s overall ecosystem. The shallow depth of the lake has led to a proliferation of lily pads and a lack of oxygen needed for a healthy ecosystem, KU said in a press release.

“Potter Lake is suffering from the equivalent of morbid obesity,” Bob Hagen, a lecturer in environmental studies and a courtesy faculty member in ecology & evolutionary biology, said in the release. “The work this summer to remove accumulated sediments and nutrients is necessary. The next challenge is to reshape the pond and its surroundings to reduce the rate at which fresh sediment and nutrients accumulate.”

Sediment removed from the lake will be sold to farmers who want the nutrient-rich soil. Frogs, turtles, snakes and other such animals found in the lake will be moved to a pond on KU’s West Campus, the university said in its news release.

Construction work at Potter is expected to be complete by the start of the fall semester. But it likely will take 12 to 18 months for the lake to once again be full of water. KU is choosing not to manually fill the lake with the estimated 4 million gallons of water that would be needed. Instead, KU has opted to let the lake fill naturally through rainfall and runoff.

The filling of the lake should coincide with the reopening of David Booth Kansas Memorial Stadium, which will not host games this upcoming football season due to major renovations at the stadium. The stadium is scheduled to reopen for play in August 2025.

Potter Lake, which is more like a pond in size, was built in 1911 with the goal of providing an easy supply of water to use in fire protection on the campus. In the ensuing years, the lake has become a spot where fans have deposited goalposts following big victories at the nearby stadium. It also has been used as an outdoor classroom space.

A group of 14 individuals from various university departments — including from urban planning, ecology, English, engineering and several others — have been meeting to ensure the revamped Potter Lake will still be valuable for teaching purposes.

“Potter Lake serves as a living laboratory where students in natural science courses can learn how ponds function and how they are connected to the surrounding areas,” Hagen said.

— The KU News Service contributed to this report.


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