Drought? Dam crack? Fireworks safety? Why is the water level at Lake Murray so low?

City said the reservoir's water will be tested next week.

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Alvis Jones looked out over Lake Murray and wasn’t impressed.

“It’s dropping,” he said while casting a line into the lake. “Probably, looks like 10, 20 feet.”

Jones stood on a metal dock that was floating on the surface of the water considerably lower than usual.

“My first thought was evaporation,” said Valerie Weise, who was walking through dirt that should be underwater.

Speculation amongst visitors and on social media threads ranged from a crack in the Lake Murray dam to a return of the drought, even though the past winter was exceptionally rainy and filled most of the reservoirs across California.

Lake Murray looks like it’s drying up because of what’s coming next week.

The City of San Diego said it purposely drew down the reservoir because the water will need to be tested beginning next Wednesday after the annual Fourth of July fireworks over the lake. The State Division of Drinking Water wants to make sure the reservoir’s water isn’t tainted by any of the chemicals falling from the fireworks. The city pulled the water out of the reservoir ahead of the holiday because it can’t use the water while it’s being tested. A wide ribbon of dirt could be seen all around Lake Murray Thursday.

“That tells you how low it is, man,” said Jones.

A city spokesman said Lake Murray’s water level is capped at 90 feet above sea level. The city drew the level down to 80 feet because the reservoir still needs to collect “filter backflow” from the neighboring Alvarado Water Treatment Plant. The 80-foot level should give the reservoir room to collect that backflow during the testing without going above Lake Murray’s 90-foot limit.

The spokesman said testing should take roughly a week. Then the reservoir will be returned to its normal depths.

“Well, I can tolerate it because it’s temporary,” smiled Weise.

Water service is not expected to be impacted during the testing. The city spokesman said water from El Capitan and San Vicente reservoirs will cover for Lake Murray until testing is done.

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