I grew up spending a large part of my life at Lake Tahoe. At that time, Tahoe was a brilliant blue and crystal clear. More than a decade ago, after a long hiatus, I returned to Tahoe. I was overwhelmed by the crowds, by the wall to wall houses, by the big green lawns everywhere (it is, after all, a high desert), and by the fact that the lake was swampy. When I visited a favorite lakeside beach from my childhood, I was shocked that the water was brown and had massive amounts of algae floating through it. The general consensus amongst Lake residents was the the problem stemmed from the vastly increased population and the lawns — the nitrogen in peoples’ fertilizer was flowing into the lake and providing a perfect breeding ground for algae.
I was therefore quite surprised to read that my perceptions were and are all wrong. According to scientists and the news there is no problem now — the lake is crystal clear, according to the following article — but that there will be a future problem from (you can all say it with me here) global warming:
A new study predicts water circulation in Lake Tahoe is being dramatically altered by global warming, threatening the lake’s delicate ecosystem and famed clear waters.
The University of California, Davis study said one likely consequence is warmer lake temperatures that will mean fewer cold-water native fish and more invasive species — like carp, large-mouth bass and bluegill.
“What we expect is that deep mixing of Lake Tahoe’s water layers will become less frequent, even nonexistent, depleting the bottom waters of oxygen,” said Geoffrey Schladow, director of the Tahoe Environmental Research Center at U.S. Davis.
Schladow, Associate Director John Reuter and postdoctoral researcher Goloka Sahoo presented the findings last week in Incline Village at a conference focusing on global warming and deep-water lakes.
The changes, the study concluded, could turn Tahoe’s famed cobalt-blue waters to a murky green in about a decade.
As I read this article, it is pretending that the problems of overpopulation, over-fertilization and excessive water use in a high desert don’t exist, and haven’t had any effect at all on the Lake for the past three decades. In their world, all problems start as of today, and all of them trace themselves to global warming.
I’ll be the first to admit that Lake Tahoe has a problem, but for those serious about preserving Tahoe’s clear, beautiful blue, the best and first line of attack would probably be lawns and fertilizers. Of course, given the Lake’s declining condition in the past 15 years or so, before global warming was more than a twinkle in Al Bore’s eye, it may be too late anyway.