Lake Tahoe's water level approaches legal limit

With Lake Tahoe at its legal capacity, the beach at Regan Beach is pretty much non existent.

With Lake Tahoe at its legal capacity, the beach at Regan Beach is pretty much non existent.

SOUTH LAKE TAHOE, Calif. — Lake Tahoe is nearly at its legal capacity.

The water level in the lake was at 6,229.02 feet Tuesday morning, according to numbers from the U.S. Geological Survey. That puts the level just shy of the legal limit of 6,229.1 feet — which is 6.1 feet above the Tahoe's natural rim.

With spring runoff really ramping up in June after a massive winter season in terms of snowfall and precipitation, the water level has been steadily climbing toward the limit.

Lake level reached a maximum height of 6,228.54 feet on June 1, according to hourly measurements by USGS.

The legal limit plays a role in determining if and how much water is spilled into the Truckee River via the Tahoe City dam, which can impact rafting businesses and other factors.

That decision hinges on several variables, U.S. District Court Water Master Chad Blanchard said earlier this year.

“Each year is individual and has its own challenges,” Blanchard said at the time. “It's all based on multiple things: (including) what the temperature does and how fast the snow melts between now and the seasonal peak at the lake.”

As previously reported, the idea of a legal limit dates back to 1907.

Back-to-back large water years caused the lake's level in July 1907 to rise to 6,231.26 feet. The high water led to a lot of erosion along Tahoe's shore.

At the time, the inability to forecast winter's impact on lake level combined with feared property damage spurred conversations about controlling the water level, Blanchard said in 2017.

Eventually legal action was filed and 6,229.1 feet was established as the upper, or legal, limit of the lake sometime around 1917. The number was later included in the Truckee River Agreement of 1935.


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