Let’s just ignore the other problems

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.

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  • Ymarsakar

    clear water lakes are pretty sterile in terms of life content or diversity. When environmentalists say that global warming is causing a lake to be unclear, it must be because diversity of life is inconvenient to their political ideology.

    Btw, Book, didn’t Neo write about the same subject concerning Tahoe awhile ago?

  • http://bookwormroom.com Bookworm

    I wouldn’t be surprised, Y. As you’ve pointed out, she and I periodically overlap. I don’t read her blog as regularly as I should and would like to, given how interesting her points are and how lovely her writing, so you would probably know better than I do about a Tahoe post from neo.

  • Ymarsakar

    My memory is fuzzy so I didn’t want to claim a post to Neo when in fact it may have been your post that I was remembering from the past.

  • tomc

    You know you can fix this all by yourself probably. How deep is the lake ?

    The problem is that the increased relative weight of the water is preventing it from absorbing oxygen, which kills the animals that feed on the algae, thereby causing an algae explosion. It’s true that nitrogen is causing a lot of this.

    BUT. There’s a simple solution that doesn’t involve filtering the water or stopping caring for the lawns.

    Just blow air into the lake. You will be surprised just how much difference even a single pump pumping just normal environmental air into the water makes. If the lake is small enough a single pump may actually be sufficient to kill algae.

    Now this won’t work in 2 hours. But after 2 weeks of pumping you should start seeing the difference. Perhaps this would be a great job for the city council to do.

    Just tie a long garden hose to something heavy (make it really heavy, there’s going to be several dozen litres of air that has to be kept on the bottom of the lake by it). Connect an air pump to it, and pump.

    Extra advantage : this won’t kill the algae, it’ll just encourage it’s competitors in the lake itself. Therefore the algae won’t dissappear, and continue to be a food source for the lake’s fish.