The U.S. Geological Survey, in cooperation with the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency, and the University of California, Davis-Tahoe Research Group, has monitored tributaries in the Lake Tahoe Basin since 1988. This monitoring has characterized streamflow and has determined concentrations of nutrients and suspended sediment, which may have contributed to loss of clarity in Lake Tahoe. The Lake Tahoe Interagency Monitoring Program was developed to collect water-quality data in the basin. In 1998, the tributary-monitoring program included 41 water-quality stations in 14 of the 63 watersheds totaling half the area tributary to Lake Tahoe. The monitored watershed areas range from 1.08 square miles for First Creek to 56.5 square miles for the Upper Truckee River.Annual and unit runoff for 20 primary and secondary streamflow gaging stations in 10 selected watersheds are described. Water years 1988-98 were used to compare runoff data. The Upper Truckee River at South Lake Tahoe, Calif., had the highest annual runoff and Logan House Creek near Glenbrook, Nev., had the lowest. Blackwood Creek near Tahoe City, Calif., had the highest unit runoff and Logan House Creek had the lowest. The highest instantaneous peak flow was recorded at Upper Truckee River at South Lake Tahoe during the January 2, 1997, flood event.Certain water-quality measurements were made in the field. Ranges and median values of those measurements are described for 41 stations. Water temperature ranged from 0 to 23?C. Specific conductance ranged from 13 to 900 microsiemens per centimeter at 25?C. pH ranged from 6.7 to 10.6. Dissolved-oxygen concentrations ranged from 5.2 to 12.6 mg/L and from 70 to 157 percent of saturation.Loads, yields, and trends of nutrients and suspended sediment during water years 1988-98 at the streamflow gaging stations also are described. The Upper Truckee River at South Lake Tahoe had the largest median monthly load for five of the six measured nutrients and of suspended sediment, while Trout Creek at South Lake Tahoe had the largest median monthly load for the remaining nutrient. Logan House Creek near Glenbrook had the smallest median monthly loads for all nutrients and suspended sediment. Seasonal load summaries at selected stations showed nutrient and suspended-sediment loads were greatest in the spring months of April, May and June and least in the summer months of July, August, and September. Monthly load comparisons also were described for five watersheds with multiple stations.Incline Creek had the highest combined rank for all nutrients and sediment. Incline Creek had the largest monthly yields for dissolved nitrite plus nitrate nitrogen and soluble reactive phosphorus. Third Creek had the second highest combined rank and had the largest monthly yields for total nitrogen, total phosphorus, biologically reactive iron, and suspended sediment. Edgewood Creek had the largest monthly yield for dissolved ammonia nitrogen. Logan House Creek had the lowest combined rank and the smallest monthly yields for all nutrients and sediment.Trends in concentrations are either decreasing or not significant for all nutrients in all sampled watersheds, with the exception of biologically reactive iron. Biologically reactive iron and suspended sediment show an increasing trend in three watersheds and decreasing or no significant trend in the other seven watersheds.
Additional publication details
USGS Numbered Series
Streamflow and water-quality data for selected watersheds in the Lake Tahoe basin, California and Nevada, through September 1998