Water & Drought

Lake Nacimiento is 13 percent full ahead of winter rains. See how water levels have declined

Timelapse: See how much water Lake Nacimiento lost in 2018

A camera stationed at Lake Nacimiento shows how much water the lake lost over a six-month period in 2018 from March to September.
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A camera stationed at Lake Nacimiento shows how much water the lake lost over a six-month period in 2018 from March to September.

San Luis Obispo County residents are preparing for start of the region’s rainy season — and those living near Lake Nacimiento are especially in need of a wet winter.

During the past six months, the reservoir has dipped from 55 percent of capacity in April down to 13 percent, as of Monday, according to the Monterey County Water Resources Agency (MCWRA).

A time-lapse video taken by Mark Marshall’s Lake Nacimiento Live cameras shows a visible decline in water levels near the Oak Shores community on the northwest end of the lake.

Lake Nacimiento is located in northern San Luis Obispo County but is owned and managed by Monterey County.

Much of the water goes to Salinas Valley growers, who paid to build the reservoir in the 1950s and continue to fund the infrastructure that sends water to their fields.

Although the lake level decline seems dramatic, the MCWRA published a release schedule in July that indicated the lake would dip to its current level.

In July, in response to dropping water levels, lakeside residents began raising money to fund a potential lawsuit against Monterey County.

But there may be relief in sight — the Central Coast is set to get its first rainstorm of the year Tuesday night into Wednesday, when a quarter-inch to three-quarters of an inch of rain is expected.

Water from Lake Nacimiento is released into the Salinas River, which flows to the Salinas Valley, where it irrigates crops in "America's Salad Bowl." Monterey County, CA, owns the rights to most of Nacimiento's water for this purpose.

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Lindsey Holden: 805-781-7939, @lindseymholden
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