Fawnskin, CA, March 9, 2014 – Some of the most visible effects of the current drought are the beaches springing up around Big Bear Lake’s 22 miles of shoreline–new patches of sand that fishermen and picnicking families are making the most of. Even after picking up over ten inches of precipitation in the recent storm system, the water level was still 7’ 10” below full, compared with being just 4 1/2 feet down at this time last year. In fact, the last time the lake was full was the spring of 2011.
The mission of the Municipal Water District (MWD) is to stabilize lake levels for recreation and wildlife. Part of that means setting limits on the amount of water that can be used as snowmaking. Big Bear Mountain Resorts is allowed to withdraw 11,000 acre feet of water in any 10-year period, not to exceed 1,300 acre feet in any single year. As a point of reference, the lake’s total storage capacity is 73,370 acre feet. About half of the water borrowed to make snow returns to the lake, so the biggest net reduction in the lake’s surface area would be roughly 1%.
That’s assuming conditions are even cold enough to make snow, though. Thanks to this winter’s warm temperatures, Big Bear Mountain Resorts has only been able to use half its maximum yearly allotment.
If you’d like to learn more about the state of the lake, Sierra Club Big Bear is presenting a discussion with MWD General Manager Scott Heule on Thursday, March 20 at 6:30 PM at the Big Bear Discovery Center. Scott Huele will talk about historical lake levels, efforts to reduce carp and Eurasian Water Milfoil weeds and efforts to prevent Quagga Mussel from gaining a foothold. Refreshments will be served.