Urban Stormwater: The Lake's Largest Pollution Source

stormwater pipe near Fremont Ave South Lake TahoeWhile some parts of the Lake Tahoe Basin are as beautiful as a national park, others are highly urbanized, with tall buildings, pavement, traffic and the pollution that comes with them. 

Urban stormwater is the largest source of pollution clouding Lake Tahoe's clear water. When it rains, or as snow melts, water flows down streets and across parking lots, picking up dirt, road sand, fine particles and oil, all of which flow directly into storm drains that lead to Lake Tahoe.

Pipe Keepers, BMPs and redevelopment help tackle pollution from urban stormwater.

While many properties have installed Best Management Practices that are required by law to prevent stormwater from flowing off their property through innovative measures like catchment basins, drainage ditches and improved landscaping, Tahoe's public infrastructure is antiquated, with more than 100 pipes or culverts still leading directly into Lake Tahoe.

Pipe KeepersThe League hosts a citizen science program called Pipe Keepers to monitor these drainage pipes and raise awareness about their negative impacts on Lake Tahoe. Read more about Pipe Keepers.

Lake Tahoe's clarity depends on the overall health of the surrounding forests, streams, meadows, and wetlands. To achieve a healthy environment we must conserve the land that has remained untouched. For this reason, the League supports redevelopment as an alternative to new development, and we work to ensure all development is contained within existing urban boundaries.

Redevelopment is the key to helping update Tahoe's aging and polluting properties. As part of the 2012 Regional Plan Update, redevelopment rules require environmental improvements such as pavement reduction, BMPs, restoration or other measures. 

Pipe Photo Caption:
An urban stormwater pipe near Fremont Avenue in South Lake Tahoe. This photo was taken in October, 2016. 

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