Even for a body of water like Lake Tahoe, which typically sees steady water levels year-round, the historic drought is having an incredible impact. This week saw the lake reach its natural rim at 6,223 feet elevation, revealing a dystopian rendition of one of the most beautiful lakes on the planet.
The Tahoe water has retreated 6 feet from its full levels, revealing algae-laden beaches and sunken trash, along with trapping anchored boats in ankle-deep water. The low-water level means the water will stop flowing into the Truckee River, losing its natural motion and creating potentially disastrous environmental ramifications with the stagnant and isolated lake.
Although this drought it the worst seen in decades, Lake Tahoe also reached its natural rim during the drought of 2014. Reaching the rim isn’t entirely catastrophic. It’s the amount of time it sits at the rim that could be problematic.
With no outlet into the Truckee River and no movement through the marshes on the north and south sides of the lake, the natural filtration of Lake Tahoe ceases to exist. That allows salt residue to build up and further destroy the clarity of the crystal-clear lake. Lake Tahoe’s natural filtration is something of legend, but it becomes a moot point at the natural rim.
A ray of hope sits over the horizon, with a series of storms forecast for the Tahoe Basin over the next two weeks. The precipitation will alleviate the water level concerns but certainly won’t fix the problem. Experts estimate that the mountains would need a record 800 inches of snow to fill the lake back up.