Lake Tahoe Climate Change Adaptation Strategy Project

Created: 4/07/2011 - Updated: 3/02/2020


Agencies and stakeholders working in the Lake Tahoe Basin initiated a project to provide guidance and create procedures to address current and projected climate change impacts in the region. The project developed tools to evaluate and communicate climate adaptation and mitigation actions for the Basin. A working group composed of multiple agencies and stakeholders was created to provide input and guidance, and share findings and products within their organizations. The primary products from this project included a climate adaptation science synthesis, a multi-agency climate planning framework, and a summary of recently completed climate adaptation and mitigation actions basin-wide.


Climate change is already affecting the hydrology and aquatic ecosystems of the Lake Tahoe Basin. Scientists have reported increased average summer and winter temperatures, decreased snow pack, and increased annual minimum surface water temperatures. To respond and plan for future changes to the Lake Tahoe Basin, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers funded this collaborative multi-agency effort.

These efforts, led by Environmental Incentives, LLC and 2ND NATURE, LLC, included a review of relevant science, development of a policy framework, and creation of climate mitigation and adaptation actions. The entire process was coordinated with several major agencies working in the Tahoe Basin to form the Tahoe Basin Climate Change Project Working Group (Working Group). Agencies represented in the Working Group included the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, California Tahoe Conservancy, Tahoe Transportation District, Tahoe Metropolitan Planning Organization, Tahoe Environmental Research Center, Tahoe Science Consortium, U.S. Forest Service, Tahoe Regional Planning Agency, Nevada Division of Environmental Protection, California Water Quality Control Board, and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. This partnership served as the advisory group for guiding the development of decision support tools and climate change adaptation and mitigation strategies for the region.


The project had three primary components: 1) synthesis of climate science findings for decision support; 2) development of a climate change planning framework; and 3) development of an evaluation framework for adaptation and mitigation actions.

Climate Change Science Synthesis

The final scientific synthesis report, The Lake Tahoe Climate Change Science Synthesis – Aquatic Resources, was released in November 2010. It includes an analysis of all scientific information related to Lake Tahoe’s aquatic systems, climate drivers to date, and estimates of the basin’s sensitivity and vulnerability to climate change. The report contains climate change projections; hydrological responses; projected impacts to the basin’s different natural and built environments and water supply systems; and estimates of the basin’s sensitivity and vulnerability to climate change. It also includes general confidence rankings for conclusions; high for conclusions supported by existing data, moderate for conclusions needing further information, and low for conclusions with conflicting information needing more research and analysis. These rankings were critical for prioritization of adaptation recommendations.

Climate Planning Framework

The Lake Tahoe Climate Change Planning Framework (Climate Planning Framework) was developed with the advice and feedback of the Working Group and information in the scientific synthesis report. It was informed by several existing planning processes, including the ICLEI-Local Governments for Sustainability Climate Resilient Communities Program. The Climate Planning Framework outlines processes and provides guidance for the Lake Tahoe Basin to 1) develop a multi-stakeholder leadership group and the first annual climate action plan, and 2) develop a management system to produce an annual climate change adaptation and mitigation action plan based on an adaptive management system. It integrates climate change strategies and progress reporting into the existing planning processes of agencies in the region, which is essential in driving the implementation of the action plan. The Climate Planning Framework includes implementation performance reports, effectiveness monitoring studies, climate monitoring reports and data, and research reports, which will be updated annually.

Climate Action Database

The Climate Action Database was developed to provide Tahoe Basin policymakers and resource managers with a tool to evaluate potential climate change adaptation and mitigation policies and science actions. Each action is evaluated by criteria such as the impact on basinwide greenhouse gases and the vulnerability of the affected system. In addition, the Climate Action Database was populated with recently implemented climate change adaptation and mitigation policies and projects to inform the basin on the state of climate change implementation.

Outcomes and Conclusions

The Climate Planning Framework is very robust and can be used for any sector, issue, or ecosystem. This project has developed the scientific support, policy framework, and processes on how to implement adaptation and mitigation actions in the region, and utilized the network of organizations through the Working Group to leverage resources and expertise. In addition, this process can be used as a model for other regions looking at developing broad action plans, particularly with multiple agency and sector jurisdictions.

While the Lake Tahoe Basin has incorporated several recommended actions into existing programs, full integration has not yet occurred as there are pending issues regarding support and agency priorities. Implementation of actions will be undertaken by the various organizations responsible for the management of the region. Priorities for climate adaptation action developed by the Working Group include: 

  1. Prioritize climate change adaptation actions to increase the resilience of the systems in the Tahoe Basin most vulnerable to climate change;
  2. Increase inter-jurisdictional collaboration to achieve regional climate change goals; and
  3. Continue to identify private funding sources and leverage opportunities for public/private partnerships to address climate change.


Information gathered from interviews and online resources. Last updated on 4/7/2011.

Project File (s)

Tahoe Basin Climate Change Project Working Group File Sharing Site


Score, A. (2011). Lake Tahoe Climate Change Adaptation Strategy Project [Case study on a project of Environmental Incentives, LCC]. Product of EcoAdapt's State of Adaptation Program. Retrieved from CAKE:… (Last updated April 2011)

Project Documents

Tahoe Basin Climate Change Planning Framework Climate Change Science Synthesis - Aquatic Resource Climate Action Database

Project Contact(s)

Environmental Incentives, LLC was created to inspire conservation, innovation and investment by creating and unlocking opportunities to improve the environment and develop ecosystem services.  Environmental Incentives is firmly rooted in the belief that inspiring the energy and creativity of entrepreneurs and the financial power of investors can assist in quickly and effectively addressing today’s environmental challenges.


Scale of Project
Regional / Subnational
Sector Addressed
Conservation / Restoration
Water Resources
Target Climate Changes and Impacts
Climate Type
1-3 years
Type of Adaptation Action/Strategy
Natural Resource Management / Conservation
Incorporate future conditions into natural resources planning and policies
Capacity Building
Increase / Improve public awareness, education, and outreach efforts
Infrastructure, Planning, and Development
Make infrastructure resistant or resilient to climate change
Governance and Policy
Create new or enhance existing policies or regulations
Effort Stage