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Historic lake nears record water levels after decades of severe drought: 'Never thought it would ever be full again'

"It's definitely beautiful when you see it high like this."

"It's definitely beautiful when you see it high like this."

Photo Credit: iStock

Heavy rains in Southern California have led to the surprising resurgence of a historic reservoir that hadn't been full in decades.

As explained in the Ventura County Reporter in April, Lake Casitas is nearing 100% capacity for the first time since 1998. The lake is a popular recreation area where visitors enjoy boating, fishing, camping, and connecting with nature, so the rising level will draw even more explorers and benefit the businesses in the area.

"I mean, it's amazing. It looks great," said Carlos Hernandez, who works at the nearby Marina Cafe, where business has "perked up" since people learned of the lake nearing capacity. "Everybody is super excited and everybody's very happy about it. A lot of long-time locals kind of never thought it would ever be full again in their lifetime. But it is, and they're excited. They're happy, you can tell."

The ever-changing climate has played a major factor in the reemergence of the lake. Per the VC Reporter, it was in 2016 that a Level 3 drought was declared in the area, and by the end of 2022, Casitas officials were worried that the lake would fall below 30% capacity, which would've triggered a Level 4 drought declaration.

However, the winter of 2022-23 brought unprecedented storms that added "about 326,000 gallons" to the lake, which brought the capacity to nearly 75%.

"Last year, we were actually diverting supply from January to mid-June, which was just really unheard of," Michael Flood, the general manager of Casitas Municipal Water District, said of the 2022-23 storms.

This winter brought more rainfall to Southern California, further increasing the chances of the lake spilling over for just the ninth time in its history.

"And a decent rain year, too, 240% or so of average. Over 50,000 acre-feet this year so far. And we're closing in on almost just right around two feet from where the lake will begin to spill over the spillway," Flood said.

The spillway leads to Coyote Creek, the Ventura River, and finally, the Pacific Ocean, so Lake Casitas' resurgence could benefit multiple bodies of water.

It was also recently reported that the water levels in Lake Elsinore have reached record highs in the aftermath of the rain in Southern California. These developments will only further improve the environment and attract more visitors.

"Everybody's pretty stoked about it. Everybody's been fishing a lot. No complaints about it being full but a lot of people making comments that it's about to overflow," Mariah Reames, a cashier at Corner Market, said of Lake Casitas.

"It's definitely beautiful when you see it high like this," said Wendy Gillett, the founder of the nonprofit Casitas Rowing. "We've noticed that with all the rain the hills are greener, there seems to be more wildlife, there's a lot more people coming to check it out, and so there's a lot more life and activity, which is nice."

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