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Lake Tahoe drops below rim for first time in five years

Wednesday, October 14, 2009
Lake Tahoe drops below rim for first time in five years
Local hydrologists expect that storms this week will help the lake's level — but not significantly
By Annie Flanzraich
Tahoe Daily Tribune

LAKE TAHOE — Lake Tahoe dropped below its natural rim this week for the first time in five years as a result of a three-year dry spell.

“We have three consecutive below-average winters — you could argue we are in a drought cycle right now, but we are definitely in a dry spell,” said Bill Hauck, Truckee Meadows Water Authority senior water supply coordinator.

On Tuesday, the lake hit 6,222.93 feet before getting a boost to 6,223.05 due to this week's rainstorms. It was October 2004 the last time the lake dipped below its natural rim, which sits at 6,223 feet.

Local hydrologists expect that storms this week will help the lake's level — but not significantly.

“One single storm is not going to bring it up dramatically because the soil conditions are so dry and it's a short-duration storm,” said Chad Blanchard, chief hydrologist with the U.S. District Court Water Masters Office in Reno. “But anything that will help, we'll take it.”

The lake is forecasted to rise about a tenth of a foot due to the storm, Blanchard said. A tenth of a foot of water in Lake Tahoe is equivalent to about 12,000 acre feet or enough water to fill a third of Boca Reservoir.

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