A long view on what the drought means for Tahoe

Mar 24, 2015:
Darcie Goodman Collins, PhD
Tahoe Daily Tribune

Having grown up in Tahoe, during a drought year in my teens, I recall wading in front of Lakeland Village for what seemed like a mile to reach a point where we could dunk fully underwater. However, the current drought is among the most significant Tahoe has faced, and a warming climate will likely intensify the effects of future droughts.

At the League to Save Lake Tahoe, we’re often asked what the drought means for the Lake. The answer isn’t straightforward.

By warming Tahoe’s shallow shorewaters, the drought creates hospitable conditions for invasive species and algal blooms. On the other hand, less rainfall may lead to short-term improvements in lake clarity, because stormwater washes fine sediments from roads and parking lots into the Lake. Decreased stormwater can also mean less nitrogen and phosphorus being carried into the Lake — and it is excessive amounts of these nutrients that feed algal blooms and non-native aquatic plants.

So, given this curious mix of negative and positive impacts, what does the drought mean for our long- term efforts to protect Lake Tahoe?

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