[LA FEATURE]Running Dry

LA FEATURE

Drought-stricken California communities face a third-consecutive dry year with no relief in sight

Swimming Banned at Castaic Lake Due to Drought

Record-low water levels prompt officials to close the popular lake to swimmers

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    NEWSLETTERS

    The popular swimming beaches and recreation area of Castaic Lake will be closed this summer due to the drought. Kim Baldonado reports from Castaic Lake for the NBC4 News at 6 p.m. on Friday, May 16, 2014.

    Castaic Lake will be off limits to swimmers this summer as water levels drop to record lows, exposing piping and steep drops along the coastline.

    Beaches at the lake are typically crowded with families on summer weekends, but authorities said the devastating drought has led to record-low water levels that create unsafe conditions for inexperienced swimmers.

    "With the drop offs in that swim area, there's normally a gradual decline and it's now a drop off where you can go from a foot to 6 feet of water in one step," said Cary Flebbe, a senior lake lifeguard with Los Angeles County Parks and Recreation Department.

    Castaic Lake is popular with local residents for boating, kayaking and other aquatic activities, but it also serves as a reservoir for much of the region's drinking water.

    The largest water project reservoir in the state, Castaic usually receives thousands of cubic feet of snowpack runoff from Northern California through the State Water Project each spring. This year, much of that water was diverted to Lake Perris to help get the Inland Empire through the summer.

    Along the three miles of lagoon shoreline at Castaic Lake, the water's edge has dropped about 30 feet, leaving exposed pipes that are usually underwater.

    From Memorial Day to Labor Day, about 160,000 people visit the swim areas. Local residents said they were disappointed to hear about the ban.

    "Oh that's not good, that's so sad to hear because I don't think there's anywhere else around here for anyone to swim, especially the kids," said Santa Clarita resident Michelle Bowes.

    Boating, fishing, kayaking and stand up paddle boarding are still allowed, but that could be revisited if conditions worsen, according to a statement from the County.