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Water Quality Improvements Underway

Work is underway on improving water quality at Canyon Lake in order to comply with water quality standards. $500,000 has been secured from the CA Dept of Water Resources by LESJWA to help support this goal. CEQA is underway and a final lake improvement project should be announced in April 2013.

By Mark Norton P.E.

LESJWA Authority Administrator

The mission of the Lake Elsinore and San Jacinto Watersheds Authority (LESJWA) is to improve water quality and wildlife habitats in Canyon Lake, Lake Elsinore, and the surrounding San Jacinto Watershed. It’s a mission not only to benefit local residents, but to also meet strict federal and state regulations for water quality.

Part of the challenge in maintaining the water quality in Canyon Lake is the natural flow of storm-water runoff that carries high levels of nitrogen and phosphorus into the lake. These substances promote excessive algae growth in the lake, which ultimately can lead to fish kills and damage to wildlife.

In 1972, the Environmental Protection Agency set specific guidelines to monitor these nitrogen and phosphorus levels, establishing what are known as Total Maximum Daily Loads (TMDLs). In this area, there is a TMDL Task Force of 20 agencies and organizations, including water districts, cities, and county departments, all responsible for making sure that both Lake Elsinore and Canyon Lake stay healthy and remain at safe levels.

In order to help Canyon Lake meet TMDL water quality goals, the TMDL Task Force has been awarded a $500,000 grant from the California Department of Water Resources to begin treatment measures to reduce nitrogen and phosphorus in the Main Lake and the East Bay of Canyon Lake.



Floating islands in Lake Elsinore to help eat up algae and clean water


Man-made islands may improve water at Lake Elsinore

Man-made islands may improve water at Lake Elsinore

Floating islands on Lake Elsinore may improve water quality

Floating islands on Lake Elsinore may improve water quality

Lake Elsinore – A Success

Lake Elsinore —- a success

For decades, Lake Elsinore was plagued by devastating fish kills, low lake levels and poor water quality that made recreation nearly impossible at Southern California’s largest natural lake.

Year after year, the lake suffered as harmful pollutants traveling through the 720-mile San Jacinto Watershed poured into Lake Elsinore, choking the lake’s oxygen supply and fueling destructive algae blooms. To make matters worse, evaporation caused lake levels to drop several feet every year.

Today, the 3,330-acre-foot lake is home to more than 500,000 healthy sport fish and attracts recreational enthusiasts from throughout the region who boat, fish, camp and enjoy other watersports and outdoor activities.

In fact, Lake Elsinore has become a model of sustainability, providing inspiration and information for authorities at the troubled Salton Sea, California’s largest lake. Officials with the Salton Sea Authority are looking at the vibrant Lake Elsinore as they create a restoration plan for the Salton Sea, which also has suffered from evaporation, fish kills and other similar problems.

The transformation at Lake Elsinore is the result of 10 years of diligent work by the Lake Elsinore & San Jacinto Watersheds Authority, a joint powers authority created after voters approved Proposition 13, a statewide water bond, in spring 2000. The five-member JPA has implemented multiple successful projects over the years to restore the watersheds and improve the quality of Lake Elsinore and neighboring Canyon Lake.

In fact, Lake Elsinore’s water quality has been hailed as the best ever, thanks to voters’ approval of Proposition 13 Water Bond and the authority’s prudent use of the bond monies.

One of the authority’s greatest challenges has been finding creative ways to boost oxygen levels in Lake Elsinore and Canyon Lake. Under harsh, oxygen-depleted water conditions, fish kills and algae blooms would impair the lake quality and detract the public from using the lake for recreational purposes. So the authority worked with its member agencies to install an aeration system that pumps air directly into Lake Elsinore. Aeration lines and lake-mixing fans circulate the oxygen there to prevent algae blooms and ultimately, fish kills.

To help stabilize lake levels at Lake Elsinore, the authority restored three groundwater wells that provide more than a billion gallons of groundwater annually through the Lake Elsinore Island Wells Project. To counteract the impacts of evaporation, the authority also funded the construction of treatment plant improvements and a recycled water pipeline into Lake Elsinore that delivers more than 5.5 million gallons of recycled water into the lake daily.

At Canyon Lake, the authority assisted with local dredging operations to prevent harmful sediment from flowing into Lake Elsinore and causing buildup of nutrients at the lake’s bottom. A future aeration and oxygen injection system is envisioned for Canyon Lake as the authority continues its water quality improvement work upstream.

Although the original Proposition 13 bond money is gone, the fruits of those dollars are evident throughout the watersheds today. The authority remains committed to restoring the environmental, economic and recreational vitality of Lake Elsinore, Canyon Lake and their upstream watersheds.

Phil Williams is chairman of the Lake Elsinore and San Jacinto Watersheds Authority.

Copyright 2010 North County Times – Californian. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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