Big Bear Valley, CA, April 26, 2014 – Happy anniversary to the Big Bear Municipal Water District (MWD), which turns 50 this year! The agency was founded in 1964 to stabilize the water levels for wildlife and recreation in southern California’s most popular lake.

When Bear Valley Mutual Water Company constructed the original Bear Valley Dam in 1884, it was to create a reservoir for irrigating orange groves downstream. So when the MWD later bought the dam along with the lake’s bottom and surface, they became responsible for providing the necessary water to Mutual’s stockholders–an obligation that continues even after much of the farmland has been converted to housing. This water can be in the form of lake releases, but more often, it’s through the “In-Lieu Water Program”, in which the MWD pays the San Bernardino Valley Municipal Water District to provide the water. That helps accomplish the mission of stabilizing lake levels, since without the In-Lieu Water Program, we’d lose up to 65,000 acre feet of water each decade–a considerable impact on a lake with a storage capacity of 73,370 acre feet.

Now, the main variable is weather conditions. After the record-dry 2013-2014 winter, for example, the lake is currently eight feet below full.

There are still plenty of ways to recreate, though. The East Public Launch Ramp is open for boating season, and the West Public Launch ramp opens May 8.

As for swimming, it’s allowed within 50 feet of the shore, but remember, no lifeguard is on your duty, so a life jacket is recommended.