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Tahoe's Dogs Make an Impact on Lake Water Quality

TitleTahoe's Dogs Make an Impact on Lake Water Quality
Author/CreatorCobourn, John; Purdy, Shelly; Segale, Heather M.
Related item(s)Press Release available at
Date Original2004-04-27
Summary/DescriptionLake Tahoe Report Segment #64 - "Impact of Dogs & Geese" (Air Date: April 27, 2004). Discusses the negative impact that dog and geese waste is having on water quality in the lake.
SubjectDomestic animals -- Environmental aspects
Water quality -- Tahoe, Lake, Region (Calif. and Nev.)
LocationLake Tahoe (Calif. and Nev.)
Tahoe, Lake (Calif. and Nev.)
CollectionThe Lake Tahoe Report
Original PublisherLake Tahoe Environmental Education Coalition (
Electronic PublisherUniversity of Nevada, Reno - Department of Teaching and Learning Technologies
Ordering and Permissions InformationFor more information, contact the University of Nevada Cooperative Extension, or 775-832-4138.
Date Digital2005-03-14
RelationRequires Windows Media Player
Resource TypeMoving Image
Contributing InstitutionUniversity of Nevada, Reno
TranscriptionSegment 64 Impacts of Dogs & Geese Air Date: April 27, 2004 Anchor Intro: In an effort to head off contamination and the loss of transparency (or clarity)[RE2] in Lake Tahoe, ever since the 1970s all the raw and treated sewage generated locally has been pumped [RE3]away for disposal outside of the Lake Tahoe Basin. But there are other sources of waste products that could be making their way into Tahoe's blue waters, and you'll be surprised at where they are coming from. Shelly Purdy explains in tonight's Lake Tahoe Report. ((Take PKG)) ((Track 1)) Dogs may be man's best friend, but, unless we clean up their mess, they could prove to be unfriendly [RE4]to the health of Lake Tahoe. Water officials estimate there are approximately 15-thousand dogs in the Tahoe Basin. That equates to a lot of waste that could potentially make its way into the lake. ((sot @ 25:18 Robert Erlich, Lahontan Regional Water Quality Control Board)) "If all of that material is deposited and none of that would get picked-up we could view that having an impact of nutrient load equivalent to if you maybe had 5, 000 people in the Tahoe Basin not on a sewer system." ((track 2)) That could equate[RE5] to as much as about 80 tons of nitrogen and 15 tons phosphorus added to soils and streets in the Lake Tahoe Basin each year just coming from dog waste. And that's not the only problem. ((s/u John Pang tape #@ 14:18 Shelly Purdy)) "Geese have also become a big problem at Lake Tahoe because Tahoe has the two things geese like the most…grassy vegetation and water." ((sot dog tape @ 28:18)) "To the extent that geese are grazing on lawns that are fertilized with fertilizer people brought in then we have some responsibility for increasing the goose population." ((track 3)) The geese are drawn to the beautiful green grass lawns found at homes and businesses throughout the Tahoe Basin. They eat the grass which is now kept green much of the year by fertilizers and irrigation[RE6]…then deposit their droppings on the ground. Since geese generally stay in the wet areas or on the lake shore, much of that material eventually makes its way to the lake. Though talking about the impacts of dog and goose poop on lake clarity may sound a bit ridiculous it has become a serious issue at Tahoe. The dog and goose populations have soared here and the mess they leave behind is just getting bigger. With the Lake Tahoe Environmental Education Coalition, I'm Shelly Purdy for KOLO News Channel 8. ((Anchor tag)) You can do your part to help the situation by simply picking up after your dog. It doesn't take much effort yet it makes a big difference. [RE1]Pumping either treated or untreated effluent long distances still has risks of spills. [RE2]Or you could say "and the growth of algae" [RE3]Not all is pumped over the mountains. From Kings Beach to Tahoma, raw sewage is pumped out of the Tahoe Basin on a route near the Truckee River for treatment at Tahoe-Truckee Sanitation Agency facilities near Truckee. South Tahoe Public Utility District is the largest sewage agency; they pump treated sewage from South Lake Tahoe over Luther Pass for disposal in grazing lands in Alpine County. [RE4]Language is too strong; I'm not aware of studies that have looked at how much dog waste reaches Lake Tahoe, and don't want to overstate the impact. [RE5]Please don't suggest that all the estimated 80 tons of nitrogen and 15 tons of phosphorus in waste from dogs could reach the lake. Some gets picked up, much is absorbed into soils; we don't want to suggest that those numbers reach the lake. Rather than thinking about dog waste as a direct nutrient load to the lake, it is more like application of fertilizer or dumping dog food on the ground in the areas where people live in the Tahoe Basin. The fertilizer, dog food, or dog wastes contains a lot of nutrients that we are importing into Tahoe, but it's not like we are dumping it directly into the lake. Dog waste is a nuisance and a problem, but most of the nutrient load would not be expected to reach the lake. [RE6]Yuk! Don't know if the geese eat "grass which is covered by chemical fertilizers"

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