As Lake Tahoe dries up, it leaves a smelly, muddy mess

Originally published at: As Lake Tahoe dries up, it leaves a smelly, muddy mess | Boing Boing


That smell, its science kids, smelly science.


Awful, though probably not as bad at least as the Salton “Sea,” which

has been shrinking, exposing a powdery arsenic-, selenium- and DDT-laced shoreline that wafts into the atmosphere. Near the sea, hospitalization rates for children with asthma are double the state average, and one in five kids have the condition. Many of the mostly Mexican American farm workers and outdoor laborers who live and work in Imperial, one of the state’s poorest counties, breathe in a dangerous mix of Salton Sea dust and pesticide on a daily basis as well. In Calipatria, Brawley, Westmorland and other towns around the lake, adult asthma rates are among the highest in the state.


I wonder how low climate change will make the water level go - it is pretty deep. And what impact it will have on tourism if it’s permanently turned into an ever- shrinking, stinking body of water…


It can’t be good for real estate prices. Lots of fancy homes coming up for sale soon.

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It’s a major ski area, so if there’s at all a decent snow pack, it should recover in the spring – but for how long? I remember my parents taking me there as a kid, probably about 3 or so, so I and my brother could see and play in the snow, something we never really saw in the San Francisco area.


The SFGate article says:

But experts say that even an average winter won’t be enough to fill the lake back up. At this point, Tahoe needs a massive, record-breaking, 800-inches-of-snow kind of winter to fill back up.

That says “fill” rather than “get up to the rim”, but if it’s not full, it will hit the rim level sooner next year.

(The rim is the level of the lake’s only outlet, the Truckee River. Once it hits the rim, water stops flowing out of the lake, which has a huge impact on the people downstream that rely on it for their water supply.)


Lake Tahoe is between California and Nevada fyi


Trash that had sunk in Tahoe’s waters is now exposed to the sunlight: a cigarette lighter, a seat cushion, a champagne bottle. It is a dystopian version of the postcard image of Lake Tahoe.

This is a prime opportunity for a cleanup!

In dry seasons when the Arkansas Rivers are at their lowest point in Wichita, KS, volunteers head out to pick up as much trash as possible from the riverbed before the spring rains.


Lake Tahoe locals (including volunteer divers) are always cleaning up the lake and usually do a great job. The overwhelming influx of tourists are just overcoming these efforts. I carry a bag in my backpack when I’m out hiking just to handle carrying out other peoples junk - usually plastic water bottles.
I believe the algae is an invasive species problem from boat contamination that they have been trying to mitigate.


Shoot-- I remember when Lake Tahoe had clarity and mirror like qualities. I guess those days are behind us.


Yes. Mark Twain loved that about it too:

So singularly clear was the water, that where it was only twenty or thirty feet deep the bottom was so perfectly distinct that the boat seemed floating in the air! Yes, where it was even eighty feet deep. Every little pebble was distinct, every speckled trout, every hand’s- breadth of sand. Often, as we lay on our faces, a granite boulder, as large as a village church, would start out of the bottom apparently, and seem climbing up rapidly to the surface, till presently it threatened to touch our faces, and we could not resist the impulse to seize an oar and avert the danger. But the boat would float on, and the boulder descend again, and then we could see that when we had been exactly above it, it must still have been twenty or thirty feet below the surface. Down through the transparency of these great depths, the water was not merely transparent, but dazzlingly, brilliantly so. All objects seen through it had a bright, strong vividness, not only of outline, but of every minute detail, which they would not have had when seen simply through the same depth of atmosphere. So empty and airy did all spaces seem below us, and so strong was the sense of floating high aloft in mid-nothingness, that we called these boat-excursions “balloon-voyages.”


So lake Tahoe smell like old-toe?

It’s declined a fair amount since the late 1960s, but does recover when you get some wet years. (Look at the increase in 82-83, rapid decline in 2014-2017, but a big improvement in 2018). Lots to be done to improve, and mitigate damage, but it’s still amazingly clear.


The wet years are probably behind us. California still has variable rainfall, but the trend is down.

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I wonder how low climate change will make the water level go

Aral Sea has entered the chat


I don’t know where the author visited. I live at Tahoe and am here every day. There has been a massive clean up over the past few years and there is virtually no trash in any area that has been exposed. There is no smell in any area I have been. This seems to be
sensationalizing at its worst.


I once lived just 100 miles west of that place in a small technology enclave in the Sierra foothills. We visited the Lake many times. One of the companies I worked for had an obligatory townhouse on the north shore, and we took advantage of it once, inviting relatives to join us for a ski day up at the Palisades Tahoe (nee Squaw Valley) Ski Resort, followed by an evening of wine and crackling fire and many doobies.

The lake in the Summer was indeed refreshingly icy cold and mostly crystal clear, with clumps of green algae swirling here and there as you’d paddle about for minutes at a time before running up on the beach to feel sunshiney warmth again.

If I recall, the lake drains via a natural dam to the Truckee River, which then flows 120 miles north to the slightly saline Pyramid Lake.

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Does that mean they’ll find Fredo?


Where are you getting the Schadenfreude from?

The blog post is citing the SFGate article. There was a one-liner in the article about the smell at Regan Beach.

I think most (all) of the posts here have been bemoaning the loss of water clarity, not celebrating it.

ETA: this post was a response to a post that has since been deleted, in case anyone is wondering why it seems out of context