The impact of California's drought on San Diego County

Lake Morena Drained to 4% Water Capacity

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    NEWSLETTERS

    Residents near Lake Morena say they've never seen the water levels there so low, but the drought isn't the only factor to blame, as NBC 7's Steven Luke reports. (Published Friday, Mar 28, 2014)

     An East County lake is down to a level most locals have never seen.

    Lake Morena – the centerpiece of a popular county park near Campo – is a shell of what it once was, holding only 4 percent of its water capacity.

    The area near the dam still has fish and some boats available for rent, but the east side of the lake is virtually dry. People can walk right out into the middle of it.

    Dave White, who has lived in the area for the past 30 years, said he has never seen its water level so low.

    “I’m not happy with it. Doesn’t even look like I can launch my boat anymore. They got the boat ramp closed because it looks like it drops off like a little cliff over there,” said White.

    Now, bees are pollinating where fish used to swim.

    The drought is indirectly to blame, but many residents are pointing fingers at the City of San Diego, which owns the water as part of its drinking supply.

    The city, facing its own water woes and a Level 1 drought alert, recently drained Lake Morena to fill other bodies of water like Lake Otay closer to home.

    "We’d like to put more water in the lakes closer to our treatment plants so that the ones out in the East County, where it rains most, would collect most of that water," said Luis Generoso with San Diego Water Resources.

    He said it will save ratepayers money.

    But locals fear the lake front views replaced with cracked earth will keep visitors away during the traditional busy season ahead.

    Unlike other lakes and reservoirs under San Diego’s control, Lake Morena can’t have water pumped in; it can only have water taken out.

    Residents worry that it could take years – if not decades – to replace the water.