It’s been a bad year for Lake Tahoe. A usually busy summer season saw empty shorelines as people evacuated from the Caldor Fire. And now California’s drought has dropped the lake’s water level to a four-year low.
Usually, Lake Tahoe sits above the basin’s natural rim, letting water flow into the Truckee River. Now, with the level low and the lake cut off, algae will bloom and wash up on popular tourist beaches. Everything depends on this winter. Lake Tahoe needs an above-average snowfall to boost the lake up past its rim again and remain there throughout next summer.
This isn’t the first time Lake Tahoe’s water level has fallen so low. But Geoffrey Schladow, who directs the UC Davis Tahoe Environmental Research Center, is concerned. “It’s a sign of change at the lake,” Schladow said, as reported by The Guardian. “Change is very difficult to manage … When we start seeing things we’ve never experienced before at a greater frequency, it’s challenging.” The big danger, he said, is next summer.
The low lake level has already affected Tahoe tour operators. Suddenly boat ramps lead to dry ground. Tour boat owners had to get creative to get clients on the lake. “You can’t get within 150 yards of the normal shoreline,” Kesley Weist, owner of tour operator Clearly Tahoe, told the San Francisco Chronicle.
To make things worse, the lake got unusually warm last summer, a recipe for harmful algal bloom and other invasive species. Not the ideal circumstances for a healthy ecosystem and happy tourists. While the wildfires and drought are part of a bigger climate picture, Schladow suggested that if people drove less in the Tahoe Basin and reduced fertilizer use on their lawns and gardens, the lake could be healthier and less prone to algal growth. “A lot of what we’ve been advocating is to try to build the resilience of the lake to climate change,” he said, as reported by The Guardian. “This is going to keep happening – how can we make the lake better able to withstand it?”
Via The Guardian
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