One question that seems to come up often from people who visit the Big Bear area is, “How far down is the lake level?” The typical answer from me has always been more of a range, rather than a specific amount.
The Big Bear Municipal Water District, also called BBMWD, has been keeping records of the levels on Big Bear Lake for some time now. Their website has the lake level history going back to 1985. Big Bear MWD takes weekly measurements and posts the results to their website here.
As you can see, the levels of Big Bear Lake will fluctuate. It was nearly full in June 2006 and is now close to 5 feet down (up 2 feet though from the first of the year). We are having a great winter so far so it would not surprise me to see the lake level close to full come Spring and Summer. The lake was almost 18 feet down in Oct. of 2004 and rose to almost full (3 feet down) by the Summer of 2005.
The lake level will usually drop about 1 foot per month during the Summer due to evaporation. So, the levels of Big Bear Lake will drop about 5 feet a year without any new precipitation. Drought conditions will also lead to lower levels as we saw from 2000 to 2005.
Lake levels will have an effect on the values of Big Bear lakefront properties too. A good rule of thumb is that the lower the lake level, the lower the prices will be on the lakefront properties, irrespective of other market conditions.
A good example of this was during the real estate boom of 2002 to 2005. Lakefront properties were not going up at the same rate as other properties in Big Bear. This was also right in the middle of the drought and lower lake levels. As soon at the water levels of Big Bear Lake came up, so did the lakefront prices. This is why it is important to know if you are buying a shallow or deep water lakefront property.
Thinking of selling your Big Bear lakefront home? Then waiting until Summer might be the best time as that is when the lake level will be the highest and look the best. It all depends on the precipitation we receive the winter before, plus what the current real estate market conditions look like at that time.