News Flash


Posted on: July 31, 2018

Progress for Pinto - The City Reports on Successful Lake Restoration

pinto lake (1)

The City of Watsonville is proud to celebrate a banner accomplishment in the trajectory toward improved environmental quality for Watsonville; the completion of the Pinto Lake Restoration Project, a multi-year collaborative funded by the Clean Water Act.

Progress for Pinto

Pinto Lake, a beloved water body in Watsonville's watershed, provides water-based recreational activities for thousands of visitors every year while supporting vital habitat for hundreds of native and migratory animal species. The City of Watsonville, the State Water Resources Control Board, and several valuable project partners including the Resource Conservation District of Santa Cruz County, Watsonville Wetlands Watch, the County of Santa Cruz, and Friends of Pinto Lake, implemented strategies to reduce pollutants entering Pinto Lake and to treat the lake for existing pollutants while utilizing a $750,000 grant generously provided by the Clean Water Act's Nonpoint Source Implementation Grant Program. 

Screen Shot 2018-07-31 at 4.38.55 PM

The Issue

Every year, Pinto experiences algae blooms (cyanobacteria). The primary cause of these toxic algal blooms is the presence of increased nutrients in lake sediments and in nutrient-rich runoff from the surrounding watershed. These blooms produce toxic algae, which, in turn, is harmful to public health. To protect residents and animals, Pinto Lake has experienced closures during these blooms and boaters have been warned to avoid contact with the water.

Collaborative Solution-Building

The culmination of the Pinto Lake Restoration Project marks an important milestone for Pinto's continued progress. However, it is important to understand that improving environmental quality for Pinto Lake is an ongoing effort that will require the cooperation of many, including those who live and work along the watershed. 

The City looks forward to future collaborative, cost-effective endeavors modeling the successes revealed throughout this process. City staff are honored to share these achievements and sincerely appreciate the support of funders, partner organizations, and residents who helped make this restorative effort possible.

Project Outcomes:

  • Reduced harmful cyanobacteria-stimulating nutrients (blue-green algae) in Pinto Lake by using "nutrient trapping" strategies both within the actual lake and throughout the watershed, including connected tributaries.
  • Engaged and educated the agricultural community and residents in the watershed on nutrient management practices.
  • Coordinated with a Technical Advisory Committee to advise on and evaluate project activities.
  • Applied treatment to Pinto Lake to decrease blue-green algae.
  • Conducted 10 site assessments representing 305 acres.
  • Designed, permitted, and implemented three sediment management projects at priority sites, and assisted four growers with
    winter preparedness practices.
  • Conducted six stakeholder events to educate and engage the community on strategies to improve water quality in PintoLake.
  • Assessed project effectiveness, determined adaptive management strategies when necessary, and provided follow-up technical assistance where needed.

treatment of lake

Alum treatment in Pinto Lake, April 2017.

Project Highlights:

  • Application of 118,000 gallons of aluminum sulfate in April 2017, which bind to the phosphates in the lake (preventing phosphates from feeding toxic algae) ultimately resulting in a significant reduction of phosphates.
  • Only one lake closure in 2017 for three weeks compared to one to three month closures in 2015 and 2016.
  • Collaboration between multiple agencies and stakeholders to implement various aspects of the project.
  • Implementation of two sediment management practices, resulting in 100% reduction of sediment to adjacent tributaries.
  • Implementation of a vegetated filter strip in order to minimize nutrients and sediment from entering Todos Santos.
  • Reached over 5,000 people to promote and educate the community on nutrient management practices.
  • Over 250 adults and children attended the iSpy Science event at Pinto Lake City Park where they engaged in outdoor nature activities and learned about keeping the lake healthy.

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To view the full report: Pinto Lake Restoration Project 

For additional information on the Pinto Lake Restoration Project: contact Jackie McCloud,

Special thanks to our partners:

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