Lake Tahoe's Water Level Remains Low
The water level at Lake Tahoe has slowly dropped, after four years of below-average winters. The lake's elevation is 1.13 feet below its natural rim of 6,223 feet above sea level.
"The Truckee River stopped flowing towards Reno about a year ago," Madonna Dunbar, Tahoe Water Supplier Association Executive Director said. "So, we've had some nice rain over the last couple of days. It might have brought it up a little bit but we are waiting for a big, wet winter."
The low lake level has changed the landscape along the shoreline, in some areas, including El Dorado Beach in South Lake Tahoe. The beach stretches more than 100 yards to the water's edge, concrete boat anchors stick out of the sand, and piers dead-end.
"I'm surprised just to see how low the water was, that's for sure," Brandon Yager said. "I know there hasn't been much snow. So, I know the skiing has been pretty rough."
Some residents say it is sad to see the lake in its current state, but are enjoying some new experiences because of it.
"We never took the walk that we discovered to take this year because it would've been on the lake bottom," Jeannie Purver said. "When you go to other beaches around the lake, you see things you've never seen because they were all underwater."
Purver says she has even noticed new plant growth, including wildflowers and grasses.
"One of my walks within the past month, I said 'I feel like I'm walking on someone's lawn,'" Purver said.
An average of 3.8 feet of water evaporates from Lake Tahoe, every year. October is typically has some of the highest evaporation in comparison to the water that drains into the lake. This month has been better than most Octobers, so far. While this has been an historic drought, the water level is still 1.6 feet higher than it's all-time low in 1992. The question is how long it will take to recover.
"It's taken a couple of years for the lake to drain, so it's going to take probably a couple years to come back up," Dunbar said.
Records show that it took five years for Lake Tahoe to increase six feet, after the drought of the 1970s. After the 1990s drought, it only took three years to gain eight feet of elevation on the lake. What happens at the end of the current drought depends on how much snow falls in the coming winters.