Lake Tahoe has seen 138.65 billion gallons of water since October |

Lake Tahoe has seen 138.65 billion gallons of water since October

Ryan Hoffman
Third Creek at Lakeshore Boulevard in Incline Village is ripping at the height of the most recent storm run-off on Feb. 9.
Courtesy Steve Dolan

In less than five months, the water level at Lake Tahoe has gone from just below its natural rim to less than three feet of the legal limit.

Put another way, approximately 138.65 billion gallons of water have been added to the lake since Oct. 1, according to the National Weather Service.

And put yet another way, the amount of water since Oct. 1 is enough to supply the average annual household water consumption for 425,506 families.

Buoyed by wet storms in October and November and winter storms in December, January and February that have dumped rain and feet upon feet upon feet of snow in the mountains and at lake level, Tahoe has experienced more precipitation between Oct. 1, 2016, and Feb. 14, 2017, than the same time period in the previous nine years, according to data from the U.S. Geological Survey.

As of 2 p.m. Tuesday, lake level at Tahoe stood at 6,226.22 feet, which is 3.22 feet above the natural rim and 2.88 feet shy of the lake’s legal limit (2,229 feet).

Since Oct. 1 Lake Tahoe has risen approximately 3 ½ feet.

Comparatively, lake level has only increased over that time period three times in the past nine years.

The greatest increase, aside from the most recent one, was between 2010 and 2011. Lake level rose 1.05 feet — going from 6,223.47 feet on Oct. 1, 2010, to 6,224.52 feet on Feb. 14, 2011. From 2015 to 2016, the lake rose .2 feet.

Lake level has not been as high on Feb. 14 since 2012, when the lake was 6,226.82 feet.

Beyond the lake, the snow water equivalent in the Lake Tahoe Basin stood at 209 percent of the median, according to the California/Nevada SNOTEL report.


And more wintry — and wet — weather is on the way this week.

“A series of weak to moderate storms is expected to impact the region beginning Thursday and potentially lasting through the middle of next week,” according to a special weather statement Wednesday from the National Weather Service in Reno. “The strongest storm in the series will impact the Sierra and western Nevada Sunday night through Monday night.”

The potential for strong winds, along with additional rain and snow, will create periods of difficult travel conditions in the Sierra.

“With very wet antecedent conditions in lower elevations and exceptionally deep snowpack at higher elevations, even small amounts of precipitation could create renewed flooding concerns,” according to NWS. “The main flooding concerns will continue to be along smaller streams, areas of poor drainage, and main stem rivers in northeast California such as the Pit, Susan and Middle Fork Feather, which have already seen flooding this past week.”

While forecasts are still being firmed, up to a foot of snow will be possible during Thursday’s storm along the Sierra crest, with only a few inches for areas below 6,500 feet.”

Meanwhile, the Sunday night through Monday night system looks to be have an organized cold-frontal structure with better potential to be a heavy snow producer.

“Latest model simulations continue to show impressive ingredients, including a 130+ knot southwest jet stream over the Sierra … moderate atmospheric river, and a strong surface low off the Oregon Coast,” officials said. “Snow levels could start above pass level, with a strong cold front eventually pushing them down to at least the western Nevada foothills. Lowering snow levels could reduce the flood threat somewhat, but again we can`t rule out renewed flooding issues.”

Snow totals for that next storm are still too early to predict.