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Pipe Keepers

Citizen scientists protecting Lake Tahoe from stormwater pollution

Fine sediments carried in stormwater are the number one threat to Lake Tahoe's water clarity.

The threat

Unchecked twentieth-century development paved over much of Tahoe’s marshes and wetlands, which had acted as natural pollution filters for waters flowing to the Lake.

Now, when rain hits our roads and parking lots, it washes off fine sediment – the number one threat to Lake clarity – and other pollutants into storm drains that lead to Big Blue.

Polluted stormwater headed for Lake Tahoe.

Polluted stormwater flows down a drain headed for Lake Tahoe.

The program

Pipe Keepers is our citizen science program to address stormwater runoff into Lake Tahoe. League experts train volunteers to assess and monitor stormwater infrastructure, collect water samples for analysis, and identify polluting pipes.

The League uses that data to collaborate with our agency partners to stop the pollution before it enters the Lake.

Pipe Keepers volunteers conduct water quality tests.

Volunteers perform water quality tests.

See the Pipe Keepers in action.

What is fine sediment and why is it a problem?

Fine sediment particles are smaller than the width of a human hair and are so light that they can remain suspended in Lake Tahoe (i.e., not sink) for years, even decades, degrading its deep water clarity. Sources of fine sediment include road sands that are applied to our streets in the winter; dirt and pollutants from streets, parking lots and neighborhoods; and even erosion of roads and other surfaces. All this material washes into storm drains and pollutes the Lake.

Become a Pipe Keeper today

Choose your level of involvement:

Pipe Keepers stormwater infrastructure monitoring

Explore the map of adopted pipes to see pictures of the sites, survey history, and interesting facts.

A special thank you to Pipe Keepers founding partner, Friends of the West Shore, who provided base funding and technical assistance in the early years of the program.