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Water Clarity Improving at Lake Tahoe

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The crystal blue water of Lake Tahoe is getting clearer. Clarity in the alpine lake has improved for two years in a row.

Lake Tahoe started getting murkier in the middle of the 20th century, when increasing development meant more silt washed into the lake. Since then, scientists have coached developers on how to do less harm, especially by diverting stormwater from the lake, so it doesn't wash in as much sediment.

And something is working, though we don't actually know what, said University of California-Davis scientist Geoff Schladow.

"What we don't fully understand is which of the projects are working really well," he said, "and which of them aren't living up to the hopes and expectations of the various designers. To me that's the next big frontier is saying, 'What works, and let's do more of that.'"

Clarity in the lake hit a low point in the 1990s.

Schladow said clear water is good for the lake's ecosystems and for tourism.

Chart produced by Don Clyde. Data from University of California, Davis Tahoe Environmental Research Center.
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