Lake Tahoe’s Water Levels are About to Reach their Legal Limit

As the snowmelt from the crazy winter of 2019 continues to flow into Lake Tahoe, water levels are rising at a rapid rate. The lake has risen nearly 8 feet over since 2018 and approaches its legal limit, forcing officials to prepare the outflow into the Truckee River.

The lake’s legal limit is 6,229.1 feet above sea level, and as the water approaches that height, the water release out of the Tahoe Dam is likely to occur any day now. In fact, Lake Tahoe’s famed crystal-clear water has risen so high, that Tahoe beaches are disappearing and forcing would-be beach-goers to cram into smaller areas.

“There were big beaches at lower water levels. Sand Harbor Beach near Incline Village is a very big beach,” Dave Wathen, deputy water master for Lake Tahoe, said to the East Valley Times. “A lot of people could fit on it. Now, it’s tighter. It’s drastically different.”

To put the water rise over the past two years into perspective, 313 billion gallons of new water has been placed into the lake. The last time the lake reached its legal limit was in 2000.

Along with the disappearing beaches, the water levels affect other businesses and infrastructure on the lake. Shoreline will begin to erode at a faster pace and docks have been moved up to accommodate the changes. The new water is also enough to supply drinking water to the greater western Nevada area for the next five years.

The new smowmelt has also improved the lake’s famed clarity, with an increase of 10-feet of visibility in the past year. The clarity change was the highest jump since measurements began on Lake Tahoe in 1968.

Needless to say, the winter of 2019 brought big changes to Northern California. And while short-term issues have arose from the large amounts of precipitation, it provides a great water outlook on the entire region for years to come.

Active NorCal

Telling the Stories of Northern California

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