10 Ways to Save Lake Tahoe

What was your initial thought when you first set eyes upon Lake Tahoe? Was it that this vast, alpine lake was beautiful and awe-inspiring? Did you dream that someday your children would play along its shores and swim in its crystal blue water? Although Lake Tahoe is brilliantly blue and pristine, its clarity is in peril. Conservation.Clearly. is the impetus behind the Lake Tahoe Environmental Improvement Program (EIP), the largest environmental restoration effort in Lake Tahoe’s history. Conservation.Clearly. is an investment in the future of Tahoe’s environmental and economic health as well as the quality of experience for all who live and play here. Of the $1.6 billion already invested, about one-third comes from federal partner agencies, one-third from state agencies, and one-third from the private sector including local property owners.

Conservation.Clearly. comes from the stewardship of every individual who knows and loves Lake Tahoe. From simply being mindful of local wildlife to supporting million-dollar river restoration projects, you can contribute to the preservation and protection of Lake Tahoe. You definitely can!


1. Implement Fire Defensible Space and Erosion Control Measures.

Best Management Practices (BMPs) and Defensible Space work together and whenever possible, wise homeowners choose to combine the work of both to help their properties become a working part of the ecosystem. Lake Tahoe’s forests are overcrowded and brush and small trees compete with larger trees for water and sunlight. Also, impervious surfaces like homes, driveways and roads abound and many homeowners clear their land to bare soil causing harful sediment and nutrients to flow into Lake Tahoe each time it rains. BMPs are proven methods of capturing stormwater and are required on all properties in the Region. For a free BMP site evaluation, and to find out which BMPs will work for your property, visit tahoebmp.org.

2. Use Native and Adapted Plants When Landscaping.

It’s important to make the right decisions about landscaping and gardening—don’t disturb native vegetation any more than you have to. Instead, strive for landscaping that is dominated by native or adapted plants as they require considerably less irrigation and fertilizer or pesticides than non-native species. The goal is to have healthy plants with roots that hold topsoil in place. Good planning will result in landscaping that’s useful, attractive and good for the   environment.

3. Pave Your Driveway

Paving doesn’t always create negative impact. Sediments from even the most compacted dirt driveway wash into the nearest storm drain, and then into Lake Tahoe during a rainfall or snowmelt. Paving your driveway also reduces the amount of dust in the air during the summer months, another factor in the decline of Lake Tahoe water quality.

4. Replace Old Woodstoves

Wood smoke contributes to air quality problems at Lake Tahoe. If you have an old wood stove, look into purchasing a newer, EPA-certified stove or fireplace insert. These typically use half the wood to generate the same amount of heat as an old stove, so you’ll save money and help the environment.

5. Protect Wetlands

Many residential areas have stream environment zones (SEZs) meandering through them. An SEZ is a beautiful, delicate, irreplaceable stream environment that requires care and respect. While SEZs don’t necessarily incorporate a stream or creek, they are highly fragile areas that are extremely important in preserving water quality and fish and wildlife habitat. SEZs are typically located in low-lying areas with spongy soil and support deciduous trees.

6. Minimize Trips in Your Car

Reducing the number of trips you take in your car helps to preserve air quality and reduce traffic congestion. Excessive automobile use degrades air quality in the Basin and contributes to the decline in Tahoe’s clarity. When going short distances, get outside—take a hike, ride your bike, or hop on the bus!


7. Stay on Designated Trails. 

Erosion from dirt roads and trails presents a serious water quality challenge. It’s important to tread lightly and stay on designated trails in order to minimize trail erosion. If you like the pristine beauty of an untrammeled wilderness, try to keep it that way by using just the well-marked trails, leave the faint trails to be reclaimed by the wild.

8. Be an Informed Boater.

Boating is an important aspect of Tahoe’s culture. Aquatic invasive species and boat engine emissions and dirty bilges, however, are among the serious environmental threats directly associated with boating. Informed boaters show up at the boat ramp with a Clean, Drained, and Dry vessel for their watercraft inspection. They also know that carbureted two-stroke engines are banned from the Lake. Only cleaner, direct fuel-injected two-stroke engines are allowed, and we encourage the use of four-stroke engines. Observe the 600-foot no-wake zone around the shoreline of Lake Tahoe and limit speeds to 5 miles per hour within 600 feet of the shoreline. Following these guidelines will minimize shoreline erosion and the noise impacts of motorized watercraft on residents, visitors, and wildlife.

9. Pick up Trash

Every cigarette butt or scrap of paper eventually ends up in Lake Tahoe. Pick up any trash you see, even if it’s not your own!

10. Be a Responsible Pet Owner

Educate yourself on the trails and shoreline areas around Lake Tahoe that are dog friendly. Always clean up after your pet and try to keep them on the trails in order to minimize their impact on soil and native plants.