Current Status of Lake Elsinore - Click Link

Lake Elsinore is Southern California’s Largest Natural, Freshwater Lake. Faced with a historic drought, extremely low water levels, higher temperatures, and an abundance of shad, the City has become increasingly concerned about the health of the lake and the vitality of the fishery.

Last year, in an effort to be proactive and prepared, the City partnered with the Lake Elsinore & San Jacinto Watersheds Authority (LESJWA) launched Lake Watch 2015 to create awareness and engage the community, local and regional resource agencies and private businesses to take part in our efforts to prepare for and address the vulnerability of Lake Elsinore.

This year, the City has relaunched its Lake Watch efforts to get prepared and regularly inform the community about the health and concerns of our most valuable asset - Lake Elsinore. While the City and the Elsinore Valley Municipal Water District each spend more than $750,000 per year to add 5 million gallons of recycled water to the lake each day, it is not enough. The City is in the midst of its 6th year of a severe drought with rainfall well below the average for the last five  years. As a result, the lake's water level has declined to its lowest levels since early 1993. 

In addition, temperatures are on the rise. August and September are among the hottest months of the year in Lake Elsinore with temperatures exceeding 100 degrees and continuing throughout the night. As a result, Lake Elsinore remains extremely vulnerable to algae blooms and subsequent fish kills. 

Algae & Algae Blooms 

Algae are large photosynthetic organisms and are normal habitants of large bodies of water like a lake. Algae are very important to both freshwater and marine environments and most species are harmless under normal circumstances. Cyanobacteria also known as “blue green algae” are actually bacteria and not a form of Algae. Algae and Cyanobacteria have very similar characteristics with the difference that certain Cyanobacteria toxins can be harmful for the environment, animals and human health.

Algae blooms occur when the algae grows at rapid speeds than normal causing dense accumulations in the water. Algae blooms are normal occurrences in bodies of water. They can become harmful when there is excessive growth. As the cyanobacteria dies off, harmful toxins can be produced known as cyanotoxins Concerns regarding blue-green algae have been on the rise throughout the Country and California including Pyramid Lake, Discovery Bay, Lake Elsinore, and Silverwood Lake. 

Read more on Algae Blooms 

Fish Kills 

Last year, a fish survey conducted on behalf of LESJWA found that Lake Elsinore’s fishery is imbalanced due to an overpopulation of Threadfin Shad. Shad are small, highly sensitive fish that hinder the water quality by eating microscopic zooplankton, which consume algae. With Shad feeding on the zooplankton in the lake, there will likely be an algae bloom thus reducing dissolved oxygen. Such conditions, ultimately lead to the demise of this delicate fish. It is nature’s way to rebalance the fish population and improve the overall health and quality of the lake.

Since 2000, the City and LEJSWA in coordination with its partner agencies has greatly improved water quality and wildlife habitats in Lake Elsinore, as well as in the surrounding watershed. Successful projects to date include the following:

  • Lake Elsinore Wetlands Enhancement Project
  • Lake Elsinore Carp Removal
  • Island Wells Pump Station Improvements
  • Striped Bass Stocking
  • Lake Elsinore Destratification & Mixing System
  • Recycled Water Nutrient Removal & Conveyance Pipeline
  • Lake Habitat Improvements

Despite these efforts, Lake Elsinore is a natural lake. The current conditions have created a poor ecological condition for the lake that is difficult to sustain. A fish kill is one of Nature’s ways of rebalancing the food chain. While there is no indication at this time that an event is imminent, the probability is high. 

Last year, Lake Elsinore did suffer a moderate fish kill. This year, the City is once again getting prepared and regularly monitors the dissolved oxygen in the lake for signs of concern.

Lake Watch 2016 

Lake Elsinore is an extremely complex, unique water body. It is only 15 feet deep at its current levels and struggling due to increasing temperatures, recent algae blooms, and declining dissolved oxygen levels. Unfortunately, there is little the City or LESJWA can do to improve its current condition without much needed rain. 

Lake Watch 2016 is focused on ensuring the City, regional partners and the community is ready and prepared for any potential concerns related to the vulnerability of Lake Elsinore including declining lake levels, algae blooms and the potential of a fish kill.  

As part of Lake Watch 2016, the City of Lake Elsinore and LESJWA are asking the community to monitor the lake and notify the City should you notice anything abnormal including algae blooms or dead fish floating in the lake or washed up on shore. To report, please call 951-674-3124 ext. 204, email or message the City at

Current Status of Lake Elsinore