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Officials share remarkable before-and-after images of lake as water nears record levels following drought: 'This level of the lake is great for us'

More fish spawning should help the ecosystem.

More fish spawning should help the ecosystem.

Photo Credit: iStock

Stunning before-and-after photos of Big Bear Lake underscored the power of nature to resolve drought conditions.

The seesaw has bounced up firmly this year, with the Southern California lake rising almost 4.5 feet since January, reaching 68.5 feet in May. In 2022, the lake was at just 55 feet from July to October and then dropped further.

Two winters of heavy storms, including the second-snowiest season in 25 years, sparked the boost, the San Bernardino Sun reported. The lake hasn't hit this level in almost a dozen years. 

Rainfall and snowpack pushed the lake almost 14 feet higher than it was in November 2022, affecting recreation, wildlife, and the local economy, per the Sun. 

"This level of the lake is great for us," Big Bear Municipal Water District interim general manager Brittany Lamson said. "We can utilize our east public launch ramp, which has our full operations."

Lamson told the outlet that any rise after April 1 is good news and that more fish spawning should help the ecosystem. The lake last reached its capacity of 72 feet three inches in 2011, though fluctuations are par for the course. It dropped as low as into the 20s on three occasions in the 1950s and '60s.

Lake levels are making headlines around the world because of rising global temperatures caused by human-induced pollution, as a warmer atmosphere retains more moisture, among other factors. 

Some of the world's biggest bodies of water, including Lake Chad in central Africa, are disappearing. In that case, scientists say an "ecological disaster" is on the horizon, with 40 million people depending on it for survival.

In a study of 95% of the water storage on Earth, scientists found that the changing climate and human consumption were leading causes of lower levels in 53% of the largest lakes and reservoirs.

Other lakes have lacked ice cover recently in the wake of the hottest year on record by far. (In fact, each one of the last nine years was hotter than any other.) In the United States, the Great Lakes experienced a historic low of 16% ice cover in winter. 

But there has been good news, too, with restoration projects afoot at Lake Tahoe and even a much smaller lake in Minnesota. Protecting these resources is vital for the environment, wildlife, and people, who can spur turnarounds by, in part, better water management.

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