Nearly 72 billion gallons of water have poured into Lake Tahoe since April 1
After a winter and early spring marked by unrelenting storms, the Sierra Nevada is piled high with snow. Now, as the storms taper off and the temperatures warm up, the snowpack is beginning to melt and runoff into rivers and lakes.
One place that’s seeing a huge impact from all the runoff is Lake Tahoe.
Since April 1, the start of the snow melt season, 219,600 acre feet —that’s 71,556,879,600 gallons — of water have poured into the lake, according to Chief Deputy Federal Water Master Dave Wathen.
As a result the lake is filling up fast, and about a foot away from reaching full capacity. Federal wanter managers say Tahoe will fill this summer for the first time in 11 years, and when it does, the total amount it will have risen across the water-year between Oct. 1 and Sept. 30 will be record-breaking.
“What we’ve come up so far and what we expect to come up will be the largest rise at the lake in 117 years of recorded history,” said Wathen.
Straddling the California–Nevada border, Tahoe is the sixth largest lake in the United States, an outdoor playground for people around the world, and the main water source for the Reno-Sparks, Nevada, area, as reported previously on SFGATE. The renowned ecological wonder is fed by 63 tributaries that drain 505 square miles known as the Lake Tahoe Watershed. With a vast surface area of 191 square miles, Tahoe requires an immense amount of water to fill, especially because roughly 100 billion gallons of water evaporates annually.
Lake Tahoe’s natural rim is at 6,223 feet above sea level. The lake can store an additional 6.1 feet in its reservoir and climbs up to 6,229.1 feet at full capacity, its legal maximum limit. The only outlet, a dam at Tahoe City, regulates the upper 6.1 feet above the low water mark, and this winter water is being released into the Truckee River as billions of gallons flow into the lake.
As of Friday morning, the lake was 6228.11 feet and Wathen says they are releasing 1,700 cubic feet per second to prevent flooding. (For perspective, they were releasing 500 cfs at one point in March.)
The lake still needs 120,ooo acre feet to fill, and between mid-May and the end of the water year, state water managers project 236,400 more acre feet of water will pour into the lake.
Courtesy of SF Gate.