Home Breaking News Low water levels at Lake Nacimiento

Low water levels at Lake Nacimiento

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An image of Lake Nacimiento on May 2, 2022
Lake Nacimiento. Photo by Ezekiel Mendez

Lake Nacimiento, a dragon-shaped body of water with 18 miles of shoreline residing in San Luis Obispo County, has seen issues regarding its low water levels over the past couple of years.

With a full water capacity of 377,000 acre feet, as of May 9 the lake has seen water levels reach 11% full capacity.

Lake Nacimiento is a relatively popular tourist attraction to water recreational enthusiasts from across California and beyond, including the existence of two housing subdivisions known as Heritage Ranch and Oak Shores.

Despite the geography of the lake residing entirely within San Luis Obispo County’s borders, the lake’s water is managed by Monterey County. There have been concerns among activist organizations, such as the NRWMAC (Nacimiento Regional Water Management Advisory Committee), that Monterey County has mismanaged the water levels.

A $120 million lawsuit was filed in San Luis Obispo County Superior Court on January 15, 2019. The NRWMAC alleges that the county has provided too low of a minimum water level for residents and Lake Nacimiento enthusiasts to reasonably enjoy, diminishing property values and causing unreasonable levels for recreational use.

According to their website, NWRMAC is still in litigation against the county of Monterey County. A portion of the lawsuit was released to the state water board to determine if Monterey County went above their yearly water release quota. The first referral meeting was conducted in April with additional meetings scheduled.

The Cuestonian repeatedly attempted contacting the NRWMAC for this story, but they provided no comment.

An image taken of one of Lake Nacimiento's boat unloading ports.
A Lake Nacimiento boat unloading port. Photo by Ezekiel Mendez

According to David Spiegel, a supervising engineer for San Luis Obispo County, climate change effects are causing Lake Nacimiento and Lake San Antonio to have wetter wet seasons, and drier dry seasons. Feb. 2017 was the last time Lake Nacimiento experienced near spillage full capacity of 797.7/800 feet, with the summer and autumn seasons often seeing a dip of over 100 feet below those levels. At the time of this article being written, the elevation of the lake was 680.95 feet.

“Only time will tell, but I think the reservoir does have a very healthy watershed,” Spiegel said. “It’s something like 300 square miles, so if you get rainfall within that area you definitely will see reservoir levels increase. But it’s just a matter of getting that rainfall.”

To combat the challenges faced by Lake Nacimiento’s spillover seasons, an inner lake tunnel project is currently being proposed by Monterey County to divert water from Lake Nacimiento to Lake San Antonio that otherwise would have spilled at Nacimiento Dam. The most recent status report of the project was held in July 2018.

The Cuestonian repeatedly attempted contacting Monterey County for this story, but they provided no comment.