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Lake Tahoe drops below natural rim for the first time since 2014

A sign of the growing drought concerns, Lake Tahoe's water level is dropping below its natural rim.

SACRAMENTO, Calif — Dry winds and little early season precipitation helped reduce Lake Tahoe's water level below the natural rim.

The water level dropped drastically early this week to just below the natural rim which sits at 6,223 feet. Tuesday night, the water dipped to 6,222.98 feet based on the USGS monitoring station.

Researchers at UC Davis' Tahoe Environmental Research Center say high winds helped accelerate the evaporation rate to four times the average annual rate. Because of that, Lake Tahoe dropped six days earlier than expected.

Water levels at the lake vary from year to year depending on snowpack and runoff that empties into the lake. The last time we saw the lake drop below its natural rim of 6,223 feet was October 2014, during the historic drought of 2012-16. 

Credit: KXTV

The lake briefly rose above the rim in June 2015 but didn’t recover fully until the drought busting winter of 2016-17. At that point, it almost reached its legal limit of 6,229.1 feet. By late January 2017, the lake was close to being full.

Lake Tahoe provides water to some area homeowners but largely for the Reno-Sparks area.

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