If you have never had the chance to visit Lake Tahoe, please add it to your top 10 of U.S. sites that are a must see. Lucky to have had a reason to visit this summer, I was shocked by just how blue Lake Tahoe really is! But as it turns out, it’s not as blue as it used to be. Find out why and ways to help keep Lake Tahoe Blue.
“. . . the water was not merely transparent, but dazzlingly, brilliantly so.”
– a description of Lake Tahoe by Mark Twain, Roughing It (1871)
Lake Tahoe was made famous by Mark Twain in the 1880s. However the dazzling brilliance experienced by Mark Twain in the 1880s, which was scientifically measured since 1968, has been steadily waning. In 1968 one could see a white disk submerged to a depth of 100 feet in Lake Tahoe. Today, clarity has dropped to around 70 feet. That means Tahoe is losing about one foot of clarity per year due to a a phenomenon known as cultural eutrophication —excessive algal growth due to excessive nutrient levels which is excelerated by Nitrogen and Phosphorus from automobile emissions. Fine sediments and general pollution also decrease water clarity.
If you are a lucky resident or visitor to Lake Tahoe, there are some simple things you can do to help keep Lake Tahoe blue. Tahoe Arts and Mountain Culture list 10 in addition to highlighting green businesses and practices in the area. Play your part by following their recommendations below, learn something and above all enjoy the natural beauty of this amazing location!
1. Ride your bike, take the trolley, walk or carpool.
Excessive automobile use degrades air quality in the Basin and contributes to the decline in Tahoe’s clarity. Before you get in your car, think about how you might be able to consolidate trips….or opt for another mode of transportation.
2. Choose low-impact recreational opportunities.
Choose lake-friendly activities such as kayaking, hiking, snowshoeing, and cross-country skiing. You’ll actually enjoy the lake in a whole different way.
3. Stay on trails when you hike, bike or ride a horse.
Straying from the trail causes excessive erosion.
4. Get educated and involved.
Educate yourself on local environmental issues and regulations. Joining the League to Save Lake Tahoe and our project, the Upper Truckee River Watershed Stewardship Group, is a great way to learn about what’s happening in Lake Tahoe. Put your knowledge to work and get involved with League events like our annual Tahoe Forest Stewardship Day. For more information on volunteering, contact us at 530.541.5388.
5. Pick up after your pet.
Animal waste contains nutrients which can wash into the lake and contribute to algae growth.
6. Pave your driveway.
Sediments from even the most compacted dirt driveway wash into the nearest storm drain and into Lake Tahoe during a rainfall or snowmelt. Paving your driveway will also reduce the amount of dust in the air during the dry summer months.
7. Check the condition of your wood stove.
Wood smoke contributes to air quality problems. If you have an old wood stove, look into purchasing a newer, EPA-certified stove or fireplace insert. These typically use half the wood to generate the same amount of heat as an old stove, so you’ll save money and help the environment! Better yet, look into wood stove alternatives such as gas!
8. Install Best Management Practices (BMP’s) on your property.
BMP’s are ways to control the runoff from your property and they are required for all properties in the Basin. The BMP’s you need depend on your property type, but examples include building infiltration trenches, paving your driveway, and covering bare soil. To find out which BMP’s will work for your property, Nevada residents should contact the Nevada Tahoe Conservation District (775-586-1610) and California residents should contact the Tahoe Resource Conservation District (530-543-1501).
9. Use native plants when landscaping.
Native or adapted plants are easier to maintain, require little irrigation, and little or no fertilizer. For tips on using native plants, click here to download the Lake Tahoe Home Landscaping Guide (10 MB pdf).
10. Reduce your carbon footprint.
New research shows that Lake Tahoe could be vastly impacted by global climate change. Do your part to start global cooling by doing simple steps around your home or office.
Image Credit: Tom Zikas, Courtesy North Lake Tahoe