Canyon Lake is a drinking water reservoir and plays an important role during periods of peak customer water demand. Elsinore Valley Municipal Water District (EVMWD) owns all water rights in Canyon Lake. EVMWD’s filtration plant serves customers in the Elsinore Valley and Canyon Lake residents. The Canyon Lake POA leases the recreational surface rights through an agreement with EVMWD.
There are two ways to fill up Canyon Lake: rain and water purchased from the Metropolitan Water District (MWD).
The primary source of water is rainfall that goes directly into the lake and from storm water that flows into the lake from the San Jacinto River Watershed. The secondary source is from water purchased by EVMWD from MWD, which flows down the San Jacinto River into Canyon Lake from turnouts 11 miles upstream. MWD water is imported from Northern California or the Colorado River.
Per the lease agreement between EVMWD and the Canyon Lake POA, EVMWD can take water from Canyon Lake down to 1372 feet above sea level. According to EVMWD Director and Canyon Lake resident Nancy Horton, EVMWD stopped processing water several months ago, when the level was 1376 feet, due to the summer heat and projected lake levels; about four to five feet of water is lost to evaporation each year.
The lake level was 1375.31 feet on Thursday morning, according to EVMWD’s website. If the lake level falls below the minimum level of 1372 feet and EVMWD does not purchase water to bring the level back up to the minimum level, the Canyon Lake POA can withhold its quarterly payment to EVMWD, per the lease agreement.
If the lake level falls below 1372 feet will EVMWD purchase water from MWD to fill the lake back to the minimum level? “If the District was to purchase water, it would be in the winter or fall,” said EVMWD Director Phil Williams.
In 2016-2017, EVMWD closed the Canyon Lake Water Treatment Plant for repairs. The plant went back on in late 2017 and EVMWD processed water again after a year of having to buy water from MWD. Imported water is more expensive than water processed from Canyon Lake, so the decision to purchase water is not taken lightly.
Residents have growing concerns about the low lake level. “We are unable to lower our lift. The sea wall footings are completely exposed,” Robbin Bouslog posted on Facebook. “My neighbor’s deck is completely out of the water,” posted Chris Papavero.
“We do not know when it will rain, how fast evaporation will take to get to 1372 feet, or how our sizzling temperatures will accelerate the process,” said Director Horton. “If your dock cannot be used because the water is too shallow for the lift to work, you should notify the POA.” Some residents of the East Bay have begun tying their boats alongside the dock so they can use their boats.
Canyon Lake holds approximately 12,000 acre feet of water. The spillway elevation is 1381.76 feet above sea level. If rainfall causes the lake level to exceed that amount, water goes over the spillway and down the San Jacinto River to Lake Elsinore. Heavy rainfall in January 2017 caused the water to spill over the dam, which had not occurred in many years.