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Lake levels drop as Californians make progress on water conservation

Posted at 10:44 PM, Sep 09, 2022
and last updated 2022-09-10 01:44:03-04

Lake levels continue to drop on the Central Coast as the state reports good progress on water conservation.

Water levels continue to drop at Lopez Lake-- leaving behind cracked, dry ground as the reservoir approaches the lowest level ever recorded.

“Even with pleasure boaters it’s not so much happening out here at this moment just because of how low the lake levels are,” said San Luis Obispo James Valdez, who was fishing at Lopez Lake Friday evening.

The main boat launch is closed, meaning that only small boats can be hand-launched from shore.

For fishermen, it’s a much longer walk than usual just to reach the water.

“The walks have been a little bit more intensive just getting to areas as far as us anglers go,” added Valdez.

The drought is causing an economic ripple effect as dropping lake levels continue to impact recreation up and down the Central Coast.

“I think the big factor here is a lot of these lakes aren’t just agricultural supply lakes. They’re also dual-use lakes-- people live on them, people have recreation on them,” said Chief Meteorologist Dave Hovde. “They’re so low—places like Lopez Lake, Lake Nacimiento are curtailing activity significantly. This is impacting how people make money, how people live in those areas, home values, all of that kind of stuff comes into play if you get long, persisting droughts as we’ve seen.”

Experts say we’ll need above-average rain, or years of normal rainfall to fill up reservoirs and recharge groundwater.

“We’re paying for the drought. I know we’ve got this tropical storm in the area, the leftover of it so you think ‘oh, there’s a little bit of rainfall in the sky.’ A little bit of rain isn’t gonna matter. We need a pattern of rain that will persist for some time,” added Dave.

State water officials continue to urge conservation as Californians cut back on how much water they use.

Residential water use was down by 10.4 percent statewide in July compared to the same time in 2020.

“The July numbers are very encouraging and show a positive trend,” said Chris Hyun, climate lead at the State Water Resources Control Board.

The state has released a map showing which regions are conserving more. The North Coast is in the lead with a 28.5 percent cutback and the Central Coast saw a 6.8 percent drop.

State water officials are urging cutbacks in outdoor irrigation as California’s weather becomes more erratic.

“Due to climate change, we’ll see an increase in these patterns both in terms of greater aridity and what we call weather whiplash, extreme flooding,” added Hyun.

The North Coast is leading on water conservation because the drought impacted them first.

Earlier this year, Governor Newsom called for a voluntary 15 percent reduction in water use.

Fourteen counties have reached that goal so far.

San Luis Obispo and Santa Barbara Counties are not included in that list.