Nanobubbles help Lake Elsinore cope with algae – and the climate


After a new investment and a wet winter, Lake Elsinore is the bluest and cleanest it’s been in years. Photo by Caleigh Wells.

It’s been 15 years since Danny Taylor last stood on the shore of Lake Elsinore and judged the water “brown [and] smelly.” He has family nearby and has been in the area, but skipped lakeside visits. “I just never came back down to the water because of that.”

Murky, odorous water has been a recurring problem for the City of Lake Elsinore and its namesake lake on the western border of Riverside County. Some years, fish die en masse, float to the surface, wash ashore, and add to the putrid smell. It’s a grizzly sight.

The reason? Toxic algae. It deprives the water of oxygen, killing plants and animals, and making people sick.  

The problem is not unique to Lake Elsinore. The EPA estimates 40,000 lakes, ponds, wetlands, and streams are “impaired.” The noxious algae thrives in warm water – which means it’s becoming more common as climate change brings hotter temperatures and more intense droughts.

The City of Lake Elsinore closed the lake in August of 2022 because toxic algae made the water dangerous to touch. Photo by Caleigh Wells.

Sometimes the City of Lake Elsinore is forced to close the lake, devastating the local economy. During a six-month shutdown in 2022, the city lost $300,000 in lake use fees alone. Plus there’s lost revenue from tourists who decide not to bring their RVs into town or spend money at local restaurants and souvenir shops. 

The City of Lake Elsinore has tried chemical remedies and flooding the lake with treated wastewater to keep the algae down. In warmer and dryer years, that wasn’t enough. Finally late last year, the city invested $2 million in a new technology: nanobubbles.

Nanobubbles are so small, they don’t float to the surface. Image courtesy of Moleaer Inc.

A company called Moleaer Inc. is injecting trillions of oxygen bubbles 2,500 times smaller than a grain of salt into the bottom of the lake, where oxygen is in shortest supply. The bubbles give plants and animals a fighting chance to compete for resources against the algae. The algae starves, and the lake’s ecosystem is restored without any harmful chemicals.

“This is a very natural process that occurs in all healthy, balanced, water ecosystems,” says Moleaer CEO Nick Dyner. “In simplest terms, nanobubble treatment is helping the lake restore itself.”

Moleaer’s machine is moved around the lake regularly to combat algae across the lake’s 3,000 acres. Image courtesy of Moleaer.

Nanobubble technology has worked in labs and smaller bodies of water before, including here in Southern California. Moleaer earned some local fame when its tiny bubbles were credited with stopping a rancid smell that emitted from a chemical spill in the Dominguez Channel, which forced thousands of Carson residents to flee their homes in 2022. 

But Lake Elsinore is a major test of the concept. As the largest natural freshwater lake in Southern California, if it can work there, it could be a successful solution in lots of spots.

Moleaer’s barge in Lake Elsinore sits less than 100 feet off the shoreline. Photo courtesy of Moleaer.

And now, five months after the barge went into the water, Lake Elsinore is a deep blue. That’s thanks in part to all the rain that fell last winter, but officials are optimistic that the technology is helping, too.

“[I’m] waiting to see how long this lasts, and [whether] the water stays clear and dark blue,” says Jack Ferguson, director at the Elsinore Valley Municipal Water District. He moved to the city more than 20 years ago and adds, “I’ve never seen it like this.”

Sitting on a paddle boat and peering over the edge, you can see up to 14 feet down. It’s some of the best visibility the city has ever recorded. The City of Lake Elsinore’s measurement of the water’s resiliency has doubled, and algae concentrations have dropped by half in the worst spots, and disappeared almost entirely in the best ones. 

The owners of the RVs in the lakeside campsite have noticed.

Among the campers is Danny Taylor’s sister. Her trip brought Taylor back to the lake 15 years after that first disappointing trip.

“It’s very clean. I’m really impressed,” Taylor says. “I’ll be back here, definitely. It’s really, really nice.”



Caleigh Wells