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The famed cobalt blue waters of Lake Tahoe became more clear last year, gaining 10 feet in visibility from the year before, according to a new study released Thursday by scientists at the University of California, Davis.
The jump is the largest annual improvement in water clarity at the iconic Sierra Nevada lake since measurements began in 1968.
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On average in 2018, a 10-inch white disk lowered from a research boat was visible 70.9 feet under the surface. A year before, it could be seen at just 60.4 feet—the lowest level ever recorded.
The reason for the huge loss of clarity in 2017, scientists said Thursday, was that heavy rains in the winter of 2016-17 washed massive amounts of sand and mud that had built up during the five-year drought into the lake. The big drop-off in the lake's clarity alarmed environmental groups, tourism leaders and many Tahoe lovers.
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"A lot of people last year were looking at the decline and saying 'It's not working, Tahoe is not getting better," said Geoffrey Schladow, a professor of engineering at UC Davis and director of the Tahoe Environmental Research Center. "Many of us were saying it was a really extreme year in 2017. It was a massive end to a massive drought. There was a lot of new material coming into the lake, and lots of new erosion. Now the lake has returned to being even better...
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