Water woes: Regulations tighten as drought worsens

Lake Tahoe’s levels are roughly a foot lower than at the same time last year.
Justin Scacco

As Memorial Day nears, the Truckee-Tahoe area will be buzzing with tourists looking to enjoy one of the state’s most precious resources.

Many of those will be looking to launch boats on Lake Tahoe and enjoy beaches, but with lake levels roughly a foot lower than this time last year, the shoreline has changed a lot in some areas while several boat ramps are closed for the summer due to low water levels.

The area’s largest attraction, Lake Tahoe, remains at a low level. On Thursday the lake’s elevation was measured at 6,224.43 feet, about a foot lower than at the same time last year. Launch ramps at Sand Harbor, El Dorado, King Beach, and Tahoe Vista Recreation Area are all closed due to low lake levels.

“Every water agency across the state needs to take more aggressive actions to communicate about the drought emergency and implement conservation measures,” said Gov. Gavin Newsom in a statement.
Justin Scacco

As a whole, the state is calling on residents to take immediate action including limiting outdoor watering, taking shorter showers, and washing full loads of laundry. The state’s reservoirs are at 72% of average levels as California heads toward summer and a drought that’s lasted three years.

With the state in its third year of a drought, regulations surrounding water use in California have been tightened following an announcement from Gov. Gavin Newsom, urging water associations to take more aggressive action to ensure individuals do their part to save water.

“Every water agency across the state needs to take more aggressive actions to communicate about the drought emergency and implement conservation measures,” Newsom in a statement. “Californians made significant changes since the last drought, but we have seen an uptick in water use, especially as we enter the summer months. We all have to be more thoughtful about how to make every drop count.”

The Tahoe Vista Recreation Area boat ramp will remain closed for the 2022 summer season due to low water levels.
North Tahoe Public Utility District

Newsom also cautioned that if conservation goals aren’t met this summer, the state could be forced to enact mandatory restrictions. Last July, Newsom called on Californians to voluntarily reduce their water use by 15%, but at the end of March that goal hadn’t been met.


At its Tuesday meeting, the State Water Resources Control Board adopted a resolution to require water suppliers to implement Stage Two of water shortage contingency plans.

The state’s plans also call for a ban on watering non-functional turf, which is defined as being solely ornamental and not regularly used for human recreational purposes or for civic or community events. Non-functional turf does not include sports fields and turf that is regularly used for human recreational purposes or for civic or community events.

In Truckee, for customers of the Truckee Donner Public Utility District, restrictions involve only watering every other day, washing cars with a nozzle that shuts off, and a ban on using potable water on driveways or sidewalks other than for the purpose of sealing or construction. Customers may be subject to fines and penalties for failing to comply.

Though the district has entered the second level in its water shortage contingency plan, Public Information Officer Steven Poncelet said the district doesn’t anticipate an actual shortage from groundwater from the Martis Valley Growndwater Basin.

“We have ample supply, and so we don’t have a shortage and we’re not experiencing a shortage. We don’t anticipate experiencing a shortage,” said Poncelet. “That being said, California is experiencing a severe drought, and we’re part of an overall water system where downstream they’re going to have issues … we should all do our part to conserve.”

Poncelet also added the the district has teamed with others around the state in urging the Water Board to consider looking at individual water providers instead of a one size fits all approach the state currently has taken.

“We are requesting that the Water Board amend the regulation to allow water suppliers discretion to implement appropriate (water conservation strategic plan) actions based on results of the annual water supply and demand assessment,” said officials from several water districts in a letter sent to the Water Board.

In Tahoe City, the utility district implemented Stage Two of its water shortage restrictions at the beginning of the month. Under those restrictions, customers can water three days per week, though there’s a ban of using water on hard surfaces, and there’s no irrigation on Saturdays.

Landscape irrigation represents the largest demand on Tahoe City’s water supply, according to the district. More information can be found at

The North Tahoe Public Utility District has been in Stage Two since May 13. Customers can water three times a week, water may not be applied to hard surfaces, and visitor accommodations may only wash linens upon request. Additionally, landscaping may not be be irrigated between the hours of 9 a.m. and 6 p.m.

More water saving tips are at

Justin Scacco is a staff writer with the Sierra Sun. He can be reached at

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