In 2014, TERC established a network of water quality monitoring stations at the perimeter of Lake Tahoe. The program aims to improve understanding of water quality variability in the nearshore zone. This system provides the essential data needed to guide restoration and future stewardship.
As of December 2018 there are 10 stations installed around Lake Tahoe, and an additional station on Cascade Lake, which feeds into Lake Tahoe. Each station consists of an optical instrument - measuring turbidity (clarity), algal concentration, and dissolved organic matter concentrations - along with a CTD, measuring water temperature, conductivity, lake level, and wave height. An underwater cable enables a real-time data feed.
Why are these nearshore data so important? The nearshore is the area of the lake most people come in contact; as home to the greatest concentrations of biodiversity, it plays an essential role in the lake ecosystem. Unlike the center of the lake, the nearshore is subject to sudden erratic changes in water quality. These changes occur in response to storms, inflows from streams and storm drains, local erosion, or drift from other parts of the lake. Every part of the nearshore responds differently. The Nearshore Network allows scientists and agencies to better understand the causes of degradation, to better implement projects to mitigate degradation, and to determine appropriate and meaningful threshold standards for nearshore conditions.
A live data feed is currently available to the public through the Lake Tahoe In Depth display located at TERC’s Tahoe Science Center and other locations around the basin.
Funding for this project (along with access to docks) is being provided through a unique partnership between lakefront property owners, private donors in the Tahoe basin, instrument manufacturers, and TERC. Each donor is supporting the operation of one nearshore sensor for a minimum of four years.