Current Status of Lake Elsinore
Update as of July 1, 2020- NOTE: Page only updated if the status changes.
Lake Elsinore is open and safe for all recreational uses including boating, fishing, kayaking and more. The City regularly samples and monitors the Lake as needed to ensure the health and safety of Lake Elsinore. Updates are posted as they become available and are necessary should the condition of the lake change.
This year's rains have benefited our lake tremendously. In fact, the water levels are higher than they have been since June 2012. Between October 2019 and April 2020, the lake rose 6 feet to well above our optimal lake level of more than 1240'. . This increased water level will be helpful for the upcoming summer when warm weather brings a higher probability of fish kills and algae blooms, and the City does expect improved water quality this year.
Lake Elsinore is located at the bottom of the 720 square-mile San Jacinto Watershed. Rainfall throughout this area flows downstream through various tributaries into Canyon Lake before spilling into Lake Elsinore. This “run-off” brings critical water supply for the lakes, but is also susceptible to carrying with it nutrients and sediment that can be detrimental to the lakes’ water quality over time by encouraging algae growth.
The last sampling event for the Lake took place on June 29, 2020. At this time, only very minor levels of Cyanobacteria, or Blue-Green Algae, were detected. In particular, microcystins were detected and anatoxin-a at Perret Park. Both were below the Caution levels. At the request of the State Water Control Board, all recreational advisory signs around the lake remain set to Caution to alert visitors of possible risks associated with recreation in the lake. These postings and notification from the State are only recommended at this time. Precautions are always recommended when algae/scum are visible in the lake including:
- Do not swim or wade near algae or scum
- Keep children away from algae in the water or on the shore.
- Do not drink this water or use it for cooking.
- Do not let pets go into water or drink the water or eat scum on the shoreline.
- For fish caught here, throw away guts and clean fillets with water before cooking.
Lake Elsinore has historically been vulnerable to algae blooms, but only began sampling for or learning about Cyanobacteria concerns in 2016. Sampling is only conducted as needed based on the state of the lake.
View Trigger Levels determined by the State
More info on California Guidelines
Previous Sample Dates:
April 2020 - Minor toxins detected, caution levels.
About Lake Elsinore's Health
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.
In 2015, 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.
The City started 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 to offset evaporation. In 2016, lake's water level declined to its lowest levels since early 1993 and was extremely vulnerable to algae blooms and subsequent fish kills. At this time, we suffered our first detected blue-green algae bloom.
In 2017, storms helped to replenish the lake and the water quality greatly improved. However, 2018 was amongst one of our driest years on record and the lake levels have once again declined well below the optimal level of 1240’. Ultimately, the lake needs more rain and the City remains diligent in monitoring the lake's health and working toward long-term options to improve the overall health of Lake Elsinore.
Algae are large photosynthetic organisms and are normal habitats 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 are 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 to the environment, animals and human health.
Algae blooms occur when the algae grow 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 die 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.
In 2015, 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 have 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. Recent 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 currently that an event is imminent, the probability is high.
In 2015 and 2018, Lake Elsinore did suffer a moderate fish kill. The City remains prepared and regularly monitors the dissolved oxygen in the lake for signs of concern.
Lake Elsinore is an extremely complex, unique water body. It is a show lake that struggles due to increasing temperatures, recent algae blooms, and declining dissolved oxygen levels during the hotter months. Unfortunately, there is little the City or LESJWA can do to improve its current condition without a stable and reliable water level of above 1240'.
Lake Watch 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, the City of Lake Elsinore and LESJWA asks the community and visitors 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.