Lake Levels Rise

By Kelly Mahan Herrick   |   January 24, 2019
Jameson Lake is 83% full following last week’s storms, but water quality is still an issue following the 2017 Thomas Fire

Last week many Montecito residents endured evacuations due to a series of several rain storms that hit our area, bringing much needed wet weather to the County. 

Montecito Water District reports that Thursday’s storm in particular brought significant precipitation over the Santa Ynez River upper watershed, and was seemingly concentrated over Jameson Lake, a key resource for MWD. As of mid-day January 17, 2019, the County’s rain gauge located at Jameson Lake recorded 6.19 inches of rainfall for the prior 24-hour period, which is approximately five inches greater than rainfall measured during the same time period in Montecito at the District’s office on San Ysidro Road. 

The current capacity of the lake is approximately 5,144 acre-feet with a storage elevation of 2,224 feet. Thursday’s event put the lake at 2,217 feet and rising, which leaves an estimated seven feet of elevation before it reaches capacity. The series of winter storms last week brought an estimated 1,250 acre feet of runoff to Jameson Lake increasing the total storage to approximately 4,300 AF or 83% of full.

According to MWD, runoff and surrounding streams should keep the lake level rising. This combined with any future rain events could cause Jameson Lake to “spill.” Spill water flows downstream via the Santa Ynez River towards Gibraltar reservoir, and spill from Gibraltar continues in the direction of Lake Cachuma. While this is great news for water supply, it remains to be determined what impact this inflow will have on water quality. Since the Thomas Fire burned through the watershed in December 2017, each rain event deposits more ash and debris in the lake. Increased contaminants make treatment difficult and as a result, water deliveries from Jameson Lake have been suspended since the Thomas Fire.

The District is completing a treatment improvement project at its primary water treatment facility with the intent of enhancing its ability to treat this supply. It is unlikely that inflow from the recent storms has improved water quality, and water deliveries from Jameson Lake are likely to remain suspended over the coming months until water quality improves or the treatment enhancements prove to be successful. The District will continue to monitor both quantity and quality around the clock and reports that there are no storm-related issues with water service at this time.

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