After dismal winter, Lake Tahoe’s water levels drop more than 2 feet

SF Gate

Amid drought conditions across the Sierra Nevada and California, Lake Tahoe is 2.5 feet lower than it was at this time last year, according to water data collected in Tahoe City on May 11.

“That’s definitely a significant drop,” said U.S. District Court Water Master Chad Blanchard, who is based in Reno, Nevada.

Lake Tahoe’s water typically gets a boost from spring’s snowmelt. But as of May 11, the snowpack in the Sierra Nevada has virtually melted, and Lake Tahoe’s water levels are the lowest they’ve been in five years, according to USGS data. Snow surveys on May 11 indicate California’s snowpack is just 6% of average for this date.

Barring significant precipitation this summer, Tahoe is on track to reach a critical low point, with lake levels reaching the rim by late summer, Blanchard told SFGATE. Water levels in Tahoe are based on the elevation of the lake’s surface. The natural rim of Lake Tahoe — a baseline measurement — is at 6,223 feet in elevation. The dam in Tahoe City was built to create a reservoir atop Lake Tahoe, holding an additional 6 feet of water above the rim elevation.

Read more >