As part of the ongoing effort to improve water quality the Kennebec Water District petitioned the state last year to allow for a larger drop in fall water levels in China Lake. This would allow a greater “flush” of algae and phosphorus out of the lake. In a 2012 research report Bjorn Lake of Kleinschmidt Consults stated that a slightly early flush, from November to October, and a greater magnitude drop in fall water levels, from -1.5 to -2.5 feet would rid the lake of an additional 400 pounds of phosphorus annually. The excellent graphic that was done by CLA Director Bob O’Connor depicts the new water levels very clearly.
There are always questions about the lake being higher or lower than normal. The upper allowed water level in this new order is unchanged. What does change from year to year is whether there is enough rainfall to keep the lake at the prescribed levels. We have a dam with enough capacity to avoid flooding in the case of extreme rainfall but there is little we can do in very dry years.
All of the water levels discussed are referenced to the cement spillway on the outlet dam. If you a curious how the water level on any given day reflects the prescribed water level take a trip to the dam with a yard stick and measure the water level above or below the spillway to see where we are. For those wanting more frequent water level updates you can make your own water level gauge. Get a small board about 4 inches wide and 4 feet long. On the center of the length of the board mark “0” then measure above and below the “0” in 6 inch increments going to plus 2 feet and minus 2 feet. Next, take a trip to the dam and see where the water level is in regards to spillway. Lets say the water level is 4 inches above spillway. Go home, take your newly painted “water level gauge” and go down to your dock. Tie the gauge to one of the dock legs so that the lake water level you just measured is at that measurement on the gauge. For this example, you measured the water level as 4 inches above spillway. Affix the measurement stick to a dock leg so the water laps at the plus 4 inch level on your board. Now you have your own water level gauge and will always be able to tell where the daily water level is in regards to the target level.