Important CA Lake Hits Record Water Levels and Boosts the Economy

By: Lauren | Published: May 03, 2024

When people imagine California, they typically envision the state’s gorgeous scenery and perfect year-round weather. However, over the past few years, the state has seen more extreme weather than any other in the country. 

From drought to flooding, aggressive storms, heat waves, and cold fronts, there’s nothing that California residents don’t have to deal with. But it’s the natural landscape that is the most affected by these extremes, and that includes California’s many lakes. 

California’s Lake Elsinore Experiencing Record High Water Levels

As of February 2024, Lake Elsinore in Southern California experienced the highest level of water it had in more than ten years.

Photograph of the high water at Lake Elsinore in Southern California

Source: @KTLA5/YouTube

The lake level hit a whopping 1,248 feet on April 22, and the city of Lake Elsinore is both thrilled by the influx of water into the popular lake and also concerned about the dangers it could pose to the surrounding area.

The Largest Freshwater Lake in Southern California

As the largest freshwater lake in Southern California, Lake Elsinore is an extremely popular tourist attraction. Just 60 miles southeast of Los Angeles, people from the city visit to enjoy swimming, fishing, and other water activities with their families every weekend. 

Families get on and off jet skis at Lake Elsinore, California

Source: Lake Elsinore Marina

The city surrounding the lake, the City of Lake Elsinore, lives almost entirely on the tourism industry. Therefore, the lake’s water level and cleanliness are essential to their livelihoods. A spokesperson for the city, Jovanny Huerta, told the Los Angeles Times, “When the lake is thriving, the economy is thriving.”

Lake Elsinore Has Experienced Intense Drought in Recent Years

Like many other lakes in California, Lake Elsinore struggles to stay full when drought hits the Golden State. And, unfortunately, drought has become far more prevalent in recent years.

Photograph of one of California’s natural lakes with an extremely low water line thanks to drought

Source: CalMatters

The lake was all but dried up for most of the 1950s and then again in the 1990s. Even though the city spent millions of dollars on a built-in system to maintain the water level in 2007, Lake Elsinore has still struggled to keep sufficient water through the state-wide droughts of 2011-2017 and 2020-2022. 

Drought Isn’t the Only Concern for Lake Elsinore

Of course, extreme drought makes the lake all but unusable for visitors, creates a breeding ground for stagnant bacteria, and ruins the ecosystem for the fish and nearly 200 species of birds that live there. 

A car drives through a flooded road

Source: Freepik

But that’s not the only problem the beloved lake faces. A water level that’s too high can also cause flooding and extreme damage throughout the area, which is exactly what happened in 1980, destroying dozens of homes and businesses in the area. 

Lake Elsinore Is Currently Dangerously Close to Flooding

Thanks to the severe rainstorms and melting snow from the California mountain tops, Lake Elsinore is currently dangerously close to flooding the city as it did nearly 45 years ago. 

Photograph of a raging river alongside a mountain with melting snow

Source: Freepik

As mentioned, the current level of the lake is 1,248 feet, and the overflow mark is 1,255 feet. In fact, the water line is so high, it’s already overtaken some walking paths, beaches, and boat launches.


The City of Lake Elsinore Has a Plan in Place to Stop a Flood

With only a 7-foot margin before significant overflow and flooding, Lake Elsinore’s local authorities already have a plan to keep the city’s residents, businesses, and homes safe.

Photograph of the Santa Ana River in Southern California with a bike path alongside it

Source: Wikipedia

Officials told the press that, if necessary, they are prepared to divert overflowing water into the nearby Santa Ana River and are confident in their ability to prevent a flood.


Why Is Lake Elsinore’s Water Level so High?

There is a simple answer to why Lake Elsinore has an abundance of water after many years of reporting excessively low levels. Extensive rain storms and melting snow simply added water to the lake faster than usual. 

Photograph of Lake Elsinore at sunrise, showing the many birds that live there

Source: Wikipedia

However, there’s also a more complex answer, which is that the extreme drought, then flooding, and then drought again in California are the direct effects of climate change. 


Would a Warming Planet Only Lead to Drought?

As almost everyone on Earth now understands, humans and their technology have caused the planet’s climate to shift in unnatural ways, raising the temperatures of both the atmosphere and the world’s oceans. 

Photograph of a dried lake after a drought

Source: Freepik

But what many still don’t understand is that a warming planet doesn’t just mean drought, though that’s certainly a side effect; it also means extreme weather events, including severe rain storms.


How Does Climate Change Cause Excess Rain?

The fact that the planet’s air and water are warming every year is a real cause for concern for the Earth’s already unpredictable weather.

Photograph of a blue sky full of moisture-rich clouds

Source: Freepik

As the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) explained, as the oceans warm, the amount of water that evaporates into the air increases. When that moisture-filled air makes its way over land, it produces intense precipitation, such as heavy rainfall and snow storms. 


California’s Extreme Weather May Be the New Normal

Even though environmentalists and world leaders are working tirelessly to find ways to reverse the negative effects of climate change, the chances of the world going back to normal are becoming slimmer by the day. 

A digital illustration of the negative effects of climate change, including drought and flooding

Source: Freepik

Unfortunately, for California residents like those who live at or enjoy the Lake of Elsinore, that means these extreme weather patterns are their new normal. 


Lake Elsinore Is Set for a Fun and Busy Summer

Even though the extreme changes at Lake Elsinore are certainly caused by climate change, which is concerning for those who understand the planet it is, it also means something else. 

Several young children play on the beach at a lake while the sun sets

Source: Freepik

And that is a fun summer for the city’s residents and visitors from Los Angeles! From swimming to fishing, sunbathing, and jet skiing, Lake Elsinore’s high water levels mean tons of fun for everyone.