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Pipe Keepers

Pipe Keepers

Protect Lake Tahoe from stormwater pollution. Join Pipe Keepers.

Pipe Keepers is the League’s citizen science program to address the leading threat to Lake Tahoe’s clarity: pollution in stormwater runoff from the Tahoe Basin’s urbanized areas. Unchecked twentieth-century development paved over much of Tahoe’s marshes and wetlands, which had acted as natural pollution filters. Now, when rain hits our roads and parking lots, it washes off fine sediment pollution into stormwater pipes to the Lake, clouding its water.

League experts train community members to collect stormwater samples from pipes throughout the Tahoe Basin, which we analyze for turbidity, an indicator of fine sediment. In response to residents’ concerns about neighborhood pipes and their impact on Lake Tahoe, the League launched Pipe Keepers in 2012. To date, Pipe Keepers volunteers have collected over 2,000 water samples from 33 pipes around Lake Tahoe.

What is fine sediment and why is it a problem?

Fine sediment particles are smaller than the width of a human hair and can remain suspended in Lake Tahoe for years, even decades, degrading its deepwater clarity. Sources of fine sediment include road traction abrasives (road sands) that are applied to our streets and highways in the winter; dirt and pollutants from streets, parking lots and neighborhoods; and even degradation of roads and other surfaces. All this material washes into storm drains during rain storms and snowmelt and pollutes the Lake.

How do you join Pipe Keepers?

To join Pipe Keepers we encourage you to first attend a Pipe Keepers Intro Training, offered once a month from approximately October through April each year. In the Intro Training you'll learn everything you need to know to become a Watershed Watcher, the first step towards becoming a dedicated Pipe Keeper. After the Intro Training, if you would like to advance to a Pipe Keeper role, we can identify a pipe for you to monitor and provide more detailed training.

Pipe Keeper grabbing a stormwater sampleWatershed Watchers: Monitor storm drains and pipes in Tahoe neighborhoods, make observations, and take pictures of trash, debris and other sources of pollution. Watershed Watchers also trace the path of storm drains to pipes if possible and report observations to League staff.

Pipe Keepers: Collect water samples at specific pipes each time it rains or during snowmelt events. We provide sampling equipment and train volunteers how to collect samples in the field. Pipe Keepers keep an eye on the weather – and the pipes – and collect as many samples as possible.

To sign up for a Pipe Keepers Intro Training please RSVP for an upcoming training, or email us at protect@keeptahoeblue.org to learn more about the Pipe Keepers program.


Pipe Keepers
Program Stats

# of Watershed Watchers trained 146 69
# of Pipe Keepers trained 86 24
# of pipes monitored 33 23
# of samples analyzed 2,334 508

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