Lake Tahoe could get clarity in murky times |

Lake Tahoe could get clarity in murky times

Laney Griffo
Special to the Sierra Sun
FILE — The lake's famed clarity makes Tahoe an ideal place to snorkel.
Photo: Claire Cudahy |

SOUTH LAKE TAHOE — Daily life changed for almost everyone, virtually overnight.

While this is a scary and stressful time, there could be a silver lining. League to Save Lake Tahoe Chief Strategy Officer Jesse Patterson hopes there is.

“This is a real opportunity for us to reflect on how we travel, what we buy, what we need to survive and when this is over, hopefully we’ll carry over the good stuff,” Patterson said.

News articles have been showing an improvement in water quality in the canals of Venice, Italy. Patterson said there could be similar improvements here on a smaller scale.

Lake Tahoe is already starting off more pristine than Italy’s waters, but if the shelter-in-place order continues into summer, the basin could see a much bigger impact without millions of tourists.

However, people have still been flocking to their favorite trails in an effort to get outside and exercise.

Patterson said people should follow California’s recommendation to recreate near their homes and not travel to the trails.

The California Tahoe Conservancy has posted signage reminding people to stay 6 feet away from each on the trail, don’t use sites if they are sick, not to form large groups, and if a parking lot seems crowded to pick another spot.

Patterson recognizes that people who live in Tahoe have an advantage in this situation, being close to many outdoor opportunities.

“People should walk, hike, bike, but do it around their homes,” Patterson said.

One obvious benefit of sheltering in place is that there are less cars on the roads.

“Events that reduce auto use generally have immediate and positive effects on key environmental resources like air quality,” said Tahoe Regional Planning Agency Public Information Officer Jeff Cowen.


While car travel is down, Patterson still worries about environmental impact on trails and parks.

“Humans tend to shift their impact,” Patterson said.

Litter is a good example. There likely won’t be the same amount of sled litter as a normal season, but there will likely be more dog waste on trails with more people out walking their dogs.

Patterson reminds people it’s always important to pick up after dogs, but especially now, since the league has suspended volunteer opportunities for clean-ups.

Another issue Patterson is foreseeing is litter from takeout.

He said supporting local businesses and getting takeout is important for the economy and community, but encourages people to try to cut down waste from takeout by bringing their own bags, and using their own utensils and straws.

Not only is it good for the environment, Patterson said, but it will also help business owners in keeping their costs down. While takeout trash is a short-term issue, Cowen worries about the long-term impact of the economic slowdown.

“The health of our local economy is an important driver of environmental restoration work at Tahoe,” Cowen said. “A strain on local businesses and families can lead to slower progress on environmental redevelopment and reduced revenue for partner agencies and organizations. That’s potentially the greatest environmental impact of a prolonged quarantine.”

While it’s too soon to tell what sheltering in place will do to the basin, it could potentially be a good way for people to make positive changes.

“We’re forced into a different reality, we’re giving nature a chance,” Patterson said.

While volunteer opportunities are paused, the League to Save Lake Tahoe will continue educating the public through its website:

Laney Griffo is a staff writer for the Tahoe Daily Tribune, a sister publication of the Sierra Sun.

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