The Lake Tahoe watershed is a unique alpine ecosystem located in the Sierra Nevada mountains of Nevada and California. The watershed drains to Lake Tahoe. Labeled “the jewel of the Sierra”, it is world renowned for its striking blue color and astonishing clarity. Furthermore, it is the largest alpine lake and second deepest lake in North America.
As such, the State of Nevada has designated Lake Tahoe as a “Water of Extraordinary Aesthetic or Ecologic Value”. Additionally, both California and the federal government have designated Lake Tahoe an “Outstanding National Resource Water”.
With abundant natural resources and a sublime panoramic backdrop of the Sierra Nevada mountains, Lake Tahoe has drawn humans to the region for thousands of years. Lake Tahoe is the cultural and spiritual center of the Washoe People and was their historic summer home for hunting, fishing and plant gathering. During the mid-1800’s, Lake Tahoe’s forests
fueled Comstock era mining and the watershed was subjected to uncontrolled sheep grazing and cattle ranching. A century later, the watershed underwent rapid growth and development to accommodate recreation, tourism and home ownership.
These activities have disrupted natural processes and functions acting within the watershed. Ecological impacts include diminished deep water clarity; degradation of nearshore quality including nuisance infestations of algae and aquatic invasive plants and animals; degradation and loss of riparian and wetland habitat and function; and impaired forest health and increased risk of wildfire.
Degradation of Tahoe’s water quality threatens its ecological functions and status, and its value as a recreational destination, a drinking water source, and an asset to the local and regional economies. NDEP is collaborating with the multitude of federal, state,
local and private partners to address water quality and other environmental issues in the watershed. The Lake Tahoe Watershed Program webpages describe the primary activities and projects in which NDEP is participating to restore and conserve Lake Tahoe’s unique ecosystem.