Lake Tahoe has had a great past few months, receiving 8.7 billion gallons of water in just two days. It hasn’t stopped there; the lake has been receiving tremendous amounts of water lately to fill the lake above its natural rim level.
The sudden rise in lake level is a result of several winter storms that hit the lake in late 2016 and early 2017. The National Weather Service calculated that since Jan. 1 of 2017 the lake has gained over 40 billion gallons of water. The stormy weather and heavy rains don’t appear to be slowing down with sequential blizzards hitting the region in almost weekly intervals.
NOAA calculated that in the two-day span from Dec. 9 through 11 Lake Tahoe gained 8,690,131,707 gallons of fresh water. The natural rim of Lake Tahoe is 6,223 feet and on Dec. 11 the height got up to 6,222.97 feet.
That’s the equivalent of filling 13,158 Olympic size swimming pools. It is early in the winter season for Lake Tahoe to gain so much water and a good sign for drought conditions in Nevada and Southern California this year.
Last year this time Lake Tahoe’s level was 6,222.1 feet, whereas this year the level is 6,225.2, over 3 feet higher. With Lake Tahoe’s surface area of 191 square miles, adding three feet of water amounts to a tremendous addition to the lake’s water storage. In fact, the total Lake Tahoe volume is estimated at 39 trillion gallons of water.
Lake Tahoe is the second deepest lake in the United States and is fed by 63 tributaries that drain 505 square miles known as the Lake Tahoe Watershed. Although approximately half of the water entering the lake is from rain or snow falling directly onto the lake surface. The only outlet is the Truckee River, but doesn’t tell the whole story of water leaving the lake. In fact, some estimates point to over 100 billion gallons of water evaporates from the lake every year. This is enhanced by the high elevation, low cloud cover and large surface area of the lake.