Monday, March 31, 2014

showers expected: drought continues

Colorado River water in Lake Mathews reservoir: March 29 2014

Showers are likely this week but the spell of cooler, wetter weather is unlikely to have significant impact on drought conditions across Southern California, according to forecasters and climatologists.

More than 95 percent of California was in severe drought as of March 25, a slight increase from the previous week, according to local, state and federal scientists with the U.S. Drought Monitor. The entire state was considered abnormally dry, a figure that remains unchanged from a year ago.

The first round of showers is expected Tuesday morning and again Wednesday with total precipitation through Thursday estimated .2 to .5 of an inch west of the mountains, and .5 to 1.5 inches over the mountains, according to the National Weather Service. Mountain snow levels could drop to 4,500 feet by Wednesday morning.

Lake Mathews from La Sierra Avenue: March 29 2014

The Lake Mathews reservoir was completed in 1939 by the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California as the western terminus of the Colorado River Aqueduct, according to Riverside County Integrated Project officials.

The maximum capacity for Lake Mathews is 182,000 acre feet, or 59.3 billion gallons, according to MWD.

On Saturday March 29, grass and other plants were growing on edges of the shore exposed by lower levels at the reservoir.

Lake Mathews south of Riverside: March 29 2014

The 242-mile Colorado River Aqueduct begins at Parker Dam southeast of Lake Havasu City, Arizona. It was conceived by William Mulholland and designed by Frank E. Weymouth of MWD, and it was built between 1933 and 1941 by the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California, according to Water and Power Associates. The aqueduct was the largest public works project in Southern California during the Great Depression.

The Metropolitan Water District, established in 1927, serves about 19 million people in a 5,200-square-mile area in Los Angeles, Orange, San Diego, Riverside, San Bernardino and Ventura counties. The district's water sources are the Colorado River and California State Water Project, according to MWD.

Lake Mathews reservoir: March 29 2014

The district's facilities include the aqueduct, pumping stations, Diamond Valley Lake, Lake Skinner, and other reservoirs in La Verne, Monterey Park and Palos Verdes, according to MWD.

Los Angeles Department of Water and Power rates for single-dwelling unit residential customers are up this year to $4.68 per hundred cubic feet, or 748 gallons, an increase from $3.96 in 2013, according to DWP.

The Department of Water and Power, the nation's largest utility, gets water from sources including the Sierra Nevada via the Los Angeles Aqueduct, the State Water Project, the Metropolitan Water District, and groundwater basins.

Lake Mathews and exposed shoreline: March 29 2014

Big Bear Lake, which relies solely on precipitation that falls in the San Bernardino Mountains, has a capacity of 73,370 acre feet, according to Big Bear Municipal Water District.

As of Monday, Big Bear Lake was "pretty close to 52,000 acre feet, and 8 feet below full," BBMWD general manager Scott Heule said in a phone interview.

"It's down significantly over the last two years, not just this year," Heule said March 31. "We didn't get the inflow over the winter that we typically get."

When the lake level is below 6 feet none of its water goes to customers, and the lake is used strictly for recreation and fishery maintenance, Heule said.

"The point we want to stress is there's plenty of lake surface to recreate on," Heule said. "When it's full the lake surface is about 3,000 acres. Right now it's about 2,500 acres."

Lake Mathews is fenced and closed to the public.

Photos by Guy McCarthy


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