(KTXL) — The last time researchers were able to see 100 feet down into Lake Tahoe’s clear water was in 1960.
But in the last several years, the average depth of visibility was no more than 70 feet due to environmental changes. Dr. Geoffrey Schladow with Tahoe Environmental Research Center says it is keeping them from reaching their goal of improving Tahoe’s health and clarity.
The biggest factors are heat and microscopic organisms.
“The important thing to take away from this is our temperature is increasing, so this temperature of 20 degrees Celsius, 68 degrees Fahrenheit, is actually a threshold for cyanobacteria,” Schladow said.
Lake Tahoe also dropped 2 1/2 feet last year. Schladow says that combined with the reduction of UV radiation from wildfire smoke and warmer surface water temperatures will only exacerbate the buildup of an invasive species of asian clams and algae called metaphyton.
So, what can be done to save a lake from harmful bacteria and clams? TERC researchers may have come up with several solutions and one of them comes in the form of animal treats.
“They may look cute but up close they’re really ugly,” Schladow said.
The plan is to harvest tiny, yet highly destructive shrimp in Tahoe called mysis.
“Turn them into delicious dog treats as a way of suddenly engaging people’s awareness of invasive species,” Schladow said.
For now, TERC scientists will continue to monitor Tahoe with drone flyovers, diving expeditions and PSAs for keeping Lake Tahoe blue.
“We’re trying to improve beyond just having improved clarity but an improved ecosystem,” Schladow said.
Schladow says if more solutions are proposed and things improve at Lake Tahoe, they may reach their goal to see at least 80 feet down by the year 2025.