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How Dry Are Our Lakes As Drought Continues On Central and South Coasts?

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KCLU News
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Lake Piru this week.

The Central and South Coasts are once again experiencing a drought. We take a look at how it’s affecting one part of our region’s water supply.

Jordan Markley is loading his boat behind his truck at Lake Piru in Ventura County. He’s been bass fishing and says he’s never seen the water level at the lake looking so low.

"Lake's a lot smaller. In a day when we have 20 boats, so there's a lot less of an area to fish for the same number of boats," he says.

His brother Trevor has a jet ski, and he says he would normally like to wake-board but feels like it’s too shallow right now.

"It's low and there's a bunch of sticks sticking out, so it's not the safest to wake-board on right now," says Trevor.

Lake Piru is not just a recreational area – the water serves Ventura County – and Lake Piru’s Chief Park Ranger Clayton Strahan says that levels are down to about 20% of the reservoir’s full capacity.

"We've got 80% of storage in our reservoir available," he said. "We are around 75ft vertical feet down of storage."

Most of Santa Barbara County and San Luis Obispo County are classified as in 'Extreme Drought', with much of Ventura County classified as 'Exceptional Drought'.

Ventura County experienced the driest June in 127 years, and the seventh driest year to date in the same time period. At Lake Piru, they’ve had just 21.9% of the normal amount of rainfall this year to date.

Strahan says that although there’s cause for concern, water supply is not yet a problem.

"Water levels are lower than we would like. Most reservoirs in California at this time are experiencing lower than normal lake levels," explains Strahan. "Lake Piru fluctuates drastically by design, we store rain water and then release out at planned or pre-determined times to recharge the natural aquafers and groundwater in Ventura County."

"It's hard to say Lake Piru's lake level is a reflection of the drought," he says. "It is but it's also a reflection of our normal operation. There's years even in normal weather years, that Lake Piru's water level could be low like now," says Strahan.

He says that we aren’t looking at a similar situation to other parts of the state, where images of dried up lakes have made headlines.

"We are not there in Ventura County. That doesn't mean we're not in a position where we don't need to be mindful and cautious that we conserve water, but we're not there yet."