Lake level rises 1 foot |

Lake level rises 1 foot

Patricia Hickson
Emma Garrard / North Lake Tahoe Bonanza / Water drips off the end of a pier at Kings Beach Friday as temperatures rose above 50 degrees.

Last week’s rain and snowstorms brought the level of Lake Tahoe to rise 1.16 vertical feet in just 10 days.

“That is the third-highest rise for a (single) storm since we’ve been keeping lake level records,” said Gary Stone, the federal watermaster for the Truckee River.

Stone said records recording the rise and fall of Tahoe date back to 1900.

The 1.16 vertical feet equates to 127,600 acre feet of water added to the lake.

That is almost 414 billion gallons of water added to Tahoe in just over a week.

Stone said the average water rise on Lake Tahoe between Oct. 1 and July 1 is 2.29 vertical feet. The majority of that water, 1.5 vertical feet, is a result of spring runoff between April and July. A water year runs from Oct. 1 to Sept. 1. The Mount Rose weather station recorded precipitation to be 191 percent of normal as of Dec. 31, while a station in Tahoe City recorded precipitation in that area to be 208 percent of normal.

On Friday, the water level of the lake was recorded at 6,225.67 feet.

The maximum water level of the lake is regulated by the Truckee dam.

A federal mandate requires that lake water be released into the Truckee River if the lake level rises less than four more feet to 6,229.1 feet.

The storms brought flooding to both the Truckee and Carson rivers.

“If Lake Tahoe had been at its legal limit the flooding in Reno would have been much worse (during the recent storm),” said Heather Segale, education and outreach coordinator for the Tahoe Environmental Research Center.

Water specialist Stone said additional flooding of the Truckee during the storm was avoided by keeping closed the water gates from the lake to the Truckee River.

Even with the recently dramatic rise in the lake’s level, Stone said he is not concerned about the lake exceeding its storage capacity this year.

“Without some very unusual event occurring we have adequate storage in Lake Tahoe that can handle additional precipitation,” Stone said. “Of course, nobody knows what Mother Nature may do.”

High water levels in Tahoe generally bode well for Carson and Reno residents who rely on the water released from the Truckee for everything from drinking to agriculture, Stone said.

“With the level of Lake Tahoe today and the snowpack we have right now – we certainty are not looking at a drought year,” he said.

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