Lake Hodges’ water fluctuation to continue
By Elizabeth Marie Himchak
Months of no rain until recently combined with testing of the new Hodges Hydroelectric Facility has resulted in little water in the Rancho Bernardo section of Lake Hodges.
The lake, which has 1,234 surface acres and 27 miles of shoreline in North County, has water levels that over the past three decades fluctuated between 70 and 115 feet deep as measured at the dam, said Arian Collins, supervising public information officer for the City of San Diego Public Utilities Department, Water Operations Branch.
“Water in Lake Hodges goes up and down all the time,” Collins said. “It is fairly common every summer as more water is used by customers.”
As of Oct. 15, the lake was 93 feet deep at the dam, but because the area in Rancho Bernardo that includes the David Kreitzer Lake Hodges Bicycle/Pedestrian Bridge is more shallow due to higher elevation, Collins said the water level is much lower than that reported. No measurements are taken in this area that several years ago went dry due to drought and led to trees growing up in this portion of the lake bed.
The trees were never removed even though most died once water returned to the lake via rainfall a few years ago. At that time the city had no way of removing or adding water to the lake.
Collins said a number of factors are at work now and in the coming months locals will see the water level fluctuate as the city and San Diego County Water Authority fully utilize the Lake Hodges Reservoir to augment emergency storage of water for the region and start adding the lake’s water into the city’s water supply.
Until recently only the San Dieguito and Santa Fe water districts could use the lake’s water to supply their customers even though the lake is within the city, according to Collins. But with the completion of the Hodges component of CWA’s Emergency Storage Project, which included a new Hodges Pump Station and Hydroelectric Facility, and a pipeline that connects to CWA’s Olivenhain Reservoir and aqueduct system, the city can now also access the water.
The connection between Lake Hodges and Olivenhain Reservoir means up to 20,000 acre-feet of water can be kept at the Hodges Reservoir for emergency use if a local earthquake or one in other parts of California, for example, interrupts the imported water supply to San Diego County. By transferring water from Olivenhain Reservoir into Hodges Reservoir, 40 megawatts of peak hydroelectric energy is produced, enough to power almost 26,000 homes for a year, according to the project’s website.
Collins said on a monthly basis for the next couple of years the city and CWA will be fluctuating the lake’s water levels between 90 and 100 feet as required for emergency storage levels, water levels needed to operate the Hodges Hydroelectric Facility and for efficient use of captured rainwater in the local vicinity.
“Efficient use of this local water helps to decrease the purchase of more expensive imported water for the city and districts and maximizing this local water benefit is important for the water ratepayers of the City of San Diego,” Collins said.
He added the actions by CWA in shifting the water to other areas is more noticeable now because “there was so much rain in the past (few years) that Lake Hodges rose so high. Now it looks dramatically lower.”
If there is significant rainfall this winter or in the future, the lake could fill to its maximum depth of 115 feet, he said, adding any water after that would flow over the dam.
For more on the Emergency Storage Project, including Lake Hodges, go to www.sdcwa.org/emergency-storage-project.
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