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Rainfall and runoff boost lake levels

Lopez Lake
Posted at 6:10 PM, Jan 06, 2023
and last updated 2023-01-06 22:47:15-05

After the recent rainfall, levels at Lopez Lake and Lake Nacimiento have seen a boost.

“The lake level has changed and was at its lowest point in early October. It was about 21.9%. And just over the past few days, we've really seen it start to climb pretty quickly and it's a little over 26% now,” said Bret Bjorkman, a park ranger at Lopez Lake.

As for Lake Nacimiento, “[I]t's been a phenomenal start so far. So since December 1st, we've risen 36 vertical feet and that has brought our capacity up from about 15% up to over 40% already," said Nathan Merkle, the Administrative Operations Manager at Monterey County Park.

However, rainfall isn't the only factor.

“To get significant rise, it's really more about the flow, the runoff and the flow of the creeks that come into the lake than it is about the actual water that falls into the lake itself,” said Bjorkman.

There are four main creeks that feed into Lake Nacimiento, according to Merkle.

“That's the main inflow that we watch," he said. "But there are also close to 100 small creeks that flow into the reservoir.”

But at Lopez Lake, it's a different story.

“Lopez, because we only have three creeks, three main drainages that run into the lake, it tends to flow a little slower than some of the other lakes in the area. So if you kind of monitor the increase in percentages and some of the other lakes in California, you might see them filling quite a bit faster than Lopez,” explained Bjorkman.

More water means more drinking water for the Central Coast as well as revenue for the lakes from water sports and recreation. But at Lake Nacimiento, recent rainfall also brought debris.

“I can tell you the water is very dirty and murky right now, and there's a lot of floating logs, floating wood chips, things that are left onshore over the summertime. So there is a bit of trash and things of that nature at the surface of the water right now,” Merkle added.