The Upper Truckee River and Trout Creek watersheds, South Lake Tahoe, California and Nevada, were studied from July to December 1996 to develop a better understanding of the relation between surface water and ground water. Base flows at 63 streamflow sites were measured in late September 1996 in the Upper Truckee River and Trout Creek watersheds. Most reaches of the main stem of the Upper Truckee River and Trout Creek had gaining or steady flows, with one losing reach in the mid-section of each stream.
Twenty-seven of the streamflow sites measured in the Upper Truckee River watershed were on 14 tributaries to the main stem of the Upper Truckee River. Sixteen of the 40 streamflow sites measured in the Upper Truckee River watershed had no measurable flow. Streamflow in Upper Truckee River watershed ranged from 0 to 11.6 cubic feet per second (ft3/s). The discharge into Lake Tahoe from the Upper Truckee River was 11.6 ft3/s, of which, 40 percent of the flow was from ground-water discharge into the main stem, 40 percent was from tributary inflows, and the remaining 20 percent was the beginning flow. Gains from or losses to ground water along streams ranged from a 1.4 cubic feet per second per mile (ft3/s/mi) gain to a 0.5 ft3/s/mi loss along the main stem.
Fourteen of the streamflow sites measured in the Trout Creek watershed were on eight tributaries to the main stem of Trout Creek. Of the 23 streamflow sites measured in the Trout Creek watershed, only one site had no flow. Flows in the Trout Creek watershed ranged from zero to 23.0 ft3/s. Discharge into Lake Tahoe from Trout Creek was 23.0 ft3/s, of which, about 5 percent of the flow was from ground-water discharge into the main stem, 75 percent was from tributary inflows, and the remaining 20 percent was the beginning flow. Ground-water seepage rates ranged from a 1.4 ft3/s/mi gain to a 0.9 ft3/s/mi loss along the main stem.
Specific conductances measured during the seepage run in September 1996 increased in a downstream direction in the main stem of the Upper Truckee River and remained relatively constant in the main stem of Trout Creek. Water temperatures measured during the seepage run also increased in a downstream direction in both watersheds.
Depths to ground water measured at 62 wells in the study area were used with the results of the seepage run to produce a water-level map in the Upper Truckee River and Trout Creek watersheds. Ground-water levels ranged from 1.3 to 69.8 feet below land surface. In the upper sections of the watersheds ground-water flow is generally toward the main stems of Upper Truckee River and Trout Creek, whereas in the lower sections, ground-water flow generally parallels the two streams and flows toward Lake Tahoe. The altitude of ground water between Lake Tahoe and Highway 50 was nearly the same as the lake-surface altitude from July to November 1996. This suggests ground-water discharge beneath the Upper Truckee River and Trout Creek drainages directly to Lake Tahoe was minimal and that much of the ground-water discharge was to the channels of the Upper Truckee River and Trout Creek upstream from Highway 50. Hydraulic gradients ranged from near zero to 1,400 feet per mile.
Samples were collected at six surface-water-quality and eight ground-water-quality sites from July through mid-December 1996. Specific conductance of the ground-water-quality sites was higher than that of the surface-water-quality sites. Water temperature and pH median values were similar between ground-water-quality and surface-water-quality sites but ground water had greater variation in pH and surface water had greater variation in water temperature. Ground-water nutrient concentrations were generally higher than those in streams except for bioreactive iron.
Additional publication details
USGS Numbered Series
Surface- and ground-water characteristics in the Upper Truckee River and Trout Creek watersheds, South Lake Tahoe, California and Nevada, July-December 1996
Water-Resources Investigations Report
U.S. Dept. of the Interior, U.S. Geological Survey ;
Branch of Information Services [distributor],
iv, 39 p. :ill., maps (some col.) ;28 cm.; 1 over-size sheet, scale 1:25,000 (1 inch = about 2,100 feet)