Current Status of Lake Elsinore

February 2018 - Algae Toxin Drop Below Thresholds, Caution Still Advised 

Lake Elsinore is open to all recreational uses including boating, fishing, kayaking and more. In February, cyanobacteria testing showed that toxins related to blue-green algae declined sharply with only one toxin, microcystins, slightly above the Caution level suggested by the State.

As noted below.  Visitors are encouraged to use discretion while recreating on Lake Elsinore and the following precautions are recommended based on the Voluntary Statewide Guidance for Blue-Green Algae Blooms:

  • DO NOT SWIM OR WADE near algae and/or scum.
  • After coming in contact with the water, RINSE OFF WITH FRESH WATER as soon as possible.
  • KEEP CHILDREN AWAY from algae in the water and on the shore.
  • Warn young children NOT TO SWALLOW any lake water, whether or not you see signs of algae.
  • DO NOT DRINK the water or use it for cooking.
  • DO NOT LET PETS OR LIVESTOCK drink the water or ingest scum on the shoreline.
  • For fish, THROW AWAY GUTS AND CLEAN FILLETS with tap water or bottled water before cooking. COOK THOROUGHLY.
  • If you or your pet get sick after going in the water, contact your doctor or veterinarian.

While this year's late storms brought some new water to the lake, the Lake is still well below its optimal lake level and remains extremely vulnerable during the hot summer months.

To ensure the safety of visitors to Lake Elsinore, permanent ‘Caution’ signs have been placed all around the lake. 

Blue-green algae is present in most freshwater and marine aquatic ecosystems. Excessive growth of blue-green algae can lead to these types of algae blooms, which can be harmful. In particular, blue-green algae (cyanobacteria) can release harmful toxins as the algae die off. Historically, Lake Elsinore has experienced algae blooms, which are very common during the summer months when temperatures increase. Algae blooms are common in other natural waterbodies around the country. As the algae die off, toxins can be produced. Concerns regarding blue-green algae have been on the rise throughout the Country.Possible symptoms from exposure to Cyanobacteria toxins may include rashes, skin or eye irritation, allergic reactions or gastrointestinal problems, and can be fatal to dogs.

Information on the City’s website will be updated appropriately. Updates regarding Lake Elsinore can be found at www.lake-elsinore.org/LakeWatch.

For more information, please contact Nicole Dailey at (951) 674-3124 ext. 314 or pio@lake-elsinore.org.

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.

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.

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. Last year, the City was 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 declined to its lowest levels since early 1993 and was extremely vulnerable to algae blooms and subsequent fish kills. 

With water levels up due to the recent storms, the lake's water quality has greatly improved. However, the City remains concerned about the future as we continue to lose over 4 1/2 of water each year due to evaporation. Ultimately, we still need more rain and we remain diligent in monitoring the lake's health and working toward long-term options to improve the overall health of Lake Elsinore. 

Algae & Algae Blooms 

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. 

Read more on Algae Blooms 

Fish Kills 

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 at this time that an event is imminent, the probability is high. 

In 2015, 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. There has not been a fish kill since the Summer of 2015. 

Lake Watch

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 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 pio@lake-elsinore.org or message the City at www.Facebook.com/CityofLakeElsinore.