Summer storms the worst for dirty runoff |

Summer storms the worst for dirty runoff

While Lake Tahoe certainly receives a lot of precipitation in the winter, it isn’t necessarily the worst time of year for dirty stormwater to run off into the lake.

And – maybe surprisingly – the worst time isn’t spring, either.

“During spring runoff, the rivers have high flows, but the runoff is pretty clean,” said Lauri Kemper, chief of the Lake Tahoe unit of the Lahontan Regional Water Quality Control Board. “One of our biggest concerns is the summer thunderstorms, which goes hand in hand with the summer construction period.”

Strong storms in the summer, producing a lot of runoff, can pick up all of the dirt and material produced from various construction projects and transport it into Lake Tahoe, one of its tributaries or a gutter that essentially transports it to either of the former locations. Additionally, hard rains can lead to slides on steep slopes.

“What we like is slow, controlled runoff,” said Kevin Hill, hydrologist for the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency.

The biggest problem in the winter is when rain falls on a hefty snowpack. The rain and melting snow combine to create high flows in the basin’s streams and streets.

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