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May 13 / Dave Schumaker

Water Clarity Loss in Lake Tahoe

Since 1968, researchers have been continuously measuring Lake Tahoe’s famous water clarity and tracking how much it degrades. The degradation of water clarity is caused by runoff and development along the shores of the lake and researchers use it to gauge how healthy the lake is.

New data from UC Davis scientists show that the rate of clarity loss has significantly slowed since 2001, giving residents and scientists interested in the lake cautious optimism that almost $500 million dollars in runoff prevention and treatment may be having a positive effect on the lake.

Image Credit: wmchu on flickr.

Schladow cautioned that the data do not pinpoint a specific cause for the recent improvements, but noted that new modeling results show that runoff of fine particles from both urbanized areas and roadways around the lake are the primary factors that influence clarity levels. Fine particles scatter light and limit how far into the lake we can see.

In addition, Schladow and his UC Davis colleagues cautioned that it is difficult to use data from a small number of years (2001 to 2007) to draw conclusions about when the trend might change from a slowdown in clarity decline to an improvement in clarity. “Only with the commitment to long-term monitoring can we truly evaluate environmental changes over time,” he said.

[Via Physorg]

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