Dormancy is a common way in which organisms survive environmental conditions that would be lethal to the active individual. However, while dormant, individuals forego reproduction. Hence theory suggests an optimal time in which to enter dormancy, depending on risks associated with both remaining active and entering dormancy. When these relative risks differ among habitats, dormancy strategies are predicted to vary as well. For freshwater zooplankton, it has been suggested that sensitivity to the cues that initiate dormancy should be selected against when females have the opportunity to remain in the water column year round. We tested this prediction with 12 populations of lake-dwelling Daphnia pulicaria (Crustacea: Cladocera). Differences among lakes in basin morphometry, predators and resources create a gradient of risk for Daphnia in the water column. Some populations persist in high numbers year round while others are abundant only in spring. We used this difference in persistence ability as an estimate of risk in the water-column. For 3 years of field sampling we found consistent differences among the lake populations in the incidence of dormancy. In some populations, only a small fraction of females switched to producing dormant eggs each year whereas in others the majority of eggs produced in the late spring were dormant. In general, populations that experienced predictably low abundances in the active form exhibited higher incidence of dormancy than did populations that persisted in high abundance year round, but there were exceptions. Our results confirm that the incidence of dormancy varies considerably among populations in a fashion consistent with general theory, but suggest that persistence in the water column is not the sole predictor of the diapause strategy found in any particular lake.