Lake Tahoe Is Almost Completely Full
Lake Tahoe and our areas reservoirs are reaping the benefits of last winter's snowpack.
Lake Tahoe and our areas reservoirs are reaping the benefits of last winter's snowpack. Lake Tahoe is about an inch from its legal limit, and about six feet above the natural rim. There is still some snowmelt still to come, one-third of the way through July.
"It's pretty unusual," Chad Blanchard, U.S. District Court Water Master said. "Obviously, we had a very big snowpack but then we also had these weird, cool spells during the spring which really prolonged the runoff."
Blanchard says 63 streams feed into the lake, and all of them are still flowing. The lake is nearing its peak, when the amount of water lost to evaporation meets the amount that flows in.
"It's starting to taper off," Blanchard said. "However, we do have some to go. It's going to be till we get down to base low, which is when the snow is gone. We're probably a month out."
The snowmelt is also causing fluctuations on the Truckee River. The river is still flowing at higher rate than a typical July, but it is much lower than it was last month.
"You get some snowmelt during the day, so in the evening down here, it starts to peak, and then it drops back down after the night time when the snowmelt reduces," Blanchard said.
The river is flowing at about 650 cubic feet per second at Floriston. That is well-above the minimum flows of 500 cfs. That means the water master does not have to release water from the reservoirs yet. Water is passing through because most of the reservoirs are full.
"Everything is as full as basically they can be at this point, or close to it," Blanchard said.
Blanchard says Stampede Reservoir has just a little room left. Otherwise, Boca Reservoir is the only one that won't fill. That is because crews are doing construction on the dam, so water levels have to be low enough to allow it.
"It would be nice to fill them all but there's plenty of water and if you're going to have construction that limits your storage capacity in Boca, this is a good year to do it," Blanchard said.
The remaining snowpack is mostly in the higher elevations. Blanchard says as the temperatures heat up, the snow will melt faster. At the same time, evaporation will happen faster, too. He says we could still see some water levels rise but that should come to an end soon.
Blanchard says Pyramid Lake has risen three years in a row, including six feet this year. He says it rose 10 feet in 2017.