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Medina Lake nears 1968 record low

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Posted: Thursday, May 16, 2013 8:43 am

The water level of Medina Lake keeps dropping, but it may be dropping slower now that the dam's gates are shut.

The lake level, as of Monday, May 13, was 981.88 feet, a level that's been more or less holding for the last seven days. That puts the lake's reservoir storage at 14,080 acre-feet, or about six percent full.

Putting the data into perspective, the top of the dam is 1,076 feet above sea level and the top of the spillway is 1,064 feet, so the lake level is 83 feet below the spillway.

The current lake level compares to the 981-foot low record set in 1966. With the lake's bed estimated at 912 feet above sea level, that means the narrow channel that's now the lake could easily be 60, maybe even 70 feet deep near the dam.  

The lake has dropped some 20 feet in the last six months. In September 2012, the lake level dropped below 1,000 feet, for the first time since the late 1960s. The previous record low was 998 feet set in 1968.

People looking to launch a boat in Medina Lake must go to Red Cove in Mico. They have the only useable boat ramp. But even then, the owners of Red Cove recommend a four-wheel drive vehicle to put their boat in (and take out) of the water.

The San Antonio Water System suspended taking water from the lake April 25. The Bexar-Medina-Atascosa Water District, which owns the dam and has the right to take 66,000 acre-feet of water from the lake each year, shut the gates on both the Medina Lake and Diversion Lake dams the same day.

BMA sells some of Medina Lake's water to SAWS and sells most of the water to irrigators in Bexar, Medina and Atascosa Counties. But the lake level keeps dropping, though slowly, even with the gates shut. This is not something that's escaped the attention of BMA manager Ed Berger.

“We've had four rain events lately, but the lake keeps dropping,” he told the Bulletin Monday.

Berger said in previous years when there's been an inch of rain above the Medina Dam, the lake would rise a foot. That's not happening currently.

Might SAWS want more water? He said if they do, they'd have to open the gates again. But for now, no.

From data from the United States Geological Survey, the lake level was 982.3 feet as of April 25. So the lake has dropped a half foot since then. At that rate, the lake level will be close to the 981-mark by the end of the month.

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