Divers have completed underwater clean-up of Lake Tahoe’s east shore; 72-mile effort continues thanks to $100K donation from Tahoe Blue Vodka, 135 Tahoe Fund donors and other grant giving foundations

An extraordinary effort to recover thousands of pounds of trash around all 72-miles of Lake Tahoe’s shoreline has reached its first significant milestone. A SCUBA dive team of professionals and volunteers spearheaded by the nonprofit Clean Up The Lake have completed the underwater clean-up of Lake Tahoe’s east shore, removing 9,281 pieces of trash weighing a collective 8,122 pounds. This effort was made possible with a $100K donation from the project’s presenting sponsor Tahoe Blue Vodka, 135 Tahoe Fund donors including Vail Resorts, and other grant giving foundations.

So far, divers have covered 22.55 miles of shoreline since beginning the clean-up effort at Edgewood on Lake Tahoe’s south shore May 14. While the majority of waste has consisted of plastics that break apart over time and impact the lake’s aquatic species, bottles, cans, golf balls, tennis balls and other items have also been found. Some of the most unique items recovered have included an Incline Village property owner’s ID card from the late 1970s, a rubber snake, a geocache box that was last found three years ago by another volunteer diver, and a radio walkman that connected to a belt buckle.

Clean Up the Lake

Group shot from above. Photo: Terrence Reardon

“Our team of professional and volunteer divers have been out as much as possible to keep our effort on track. To date, we’ve completed 27 dive days,” said Colin West, Clean Up The Lake founder and executive director. “Some of the trashiest spots we’ve cleaned so far include areas like Deadman’s Point full of boat wrecks broken into hundreds of pieces, parts of East Shore where people tend to frequent and the rocks near the shoreline collect aluminum cans, plastic bottles & other trash that gets stuck in the rocks for decades. We anticipate there will be so much more to learn about the way the trash is being distributed underneath the surface of Tahoe as we continue to make our way around the lake the rest of this year.”

“The sheer volume of trash that has been recovered in just this first stretch of shoreline is incredible,” said Matt Levitt, Founder of Tahoe Blue Vodka, whose award-winning spirit is made from the pristine waters of Lake Tahoe. “Every time I’m out diving with the team, I’m moved by the value and impact of this unprecedented clean-up effort. I hope it serves to raise awareness about the negative impact trash can have on the lake and the ecosystems that inhabit it. From day one, a portion of proceeds from Tahoe Blue Vodka have gone to support the ongoing efforts of organizations that work to protect the magnificent Lake Tahoe for future generations to enjoy.” 

Clean Up the Lake

Trash cleaned up from the lake is brought to shore and processed.

Divers will continue the clean-up throughout the summer and fall, and expect to complete the effort in November 2021, weather and conditions permitting.

“Supporting projects like this is core to our mission. It’s astounding how much trash has already been surfaced in such a short distance, and it’s clear that by the time this effort concludes, the positive impact to Lake Tahoe will be significant,” said Allen Biaggi, Tahoe Fund board chair. “This effort truly wouldn’t have been possible without the tremendous support of the individual and corporate donors who generously contributed to make it happen.”

The project was funded by contributions raised by the Tahoe Fund from more than 135 businesses and people who donated to the cause, including an initial $100,000 match offered by Tahoe Blue Vodka. Additional funding support came from Vail Resorts, the Nevada Division of State Lands Lake Tahoe License Plate program and other grant-giving foundations.

Learn more about the project and how to volunteer on dives at www.tahoefund.org.

Clean Up the Lake

Divers picked up over 8,122 pounds of trash over the course of 27 dive days.



About Tahoe Fund 

The Tahoe Fund was founded in 2010 to work with the private community to support environmental improvement projects that restore lake clarity, enhance outdoor recreation, promote healthier forests, improve transportation and inspire greater stewardship of the region. Through the generous support of private donors, the Tahoe Fund has leveraged more than $3 million in private funds to secure more than $50 million in public funds for more than 40 environmental projects. The projects include new sections of the Lake Tahoe Bikeway, restoration of watersheds, removal of aquatic invasive species, forest health projects, public beach improvements, and stewardship programs. Learn more at www.tahoefund.org. 

Clean Up the Lake

Meghan Burk diving Lake Tahoe.

About Tahoe Blue Vodka 

Founded in 2012 by Matt Levitt, Tahoe Blue Vodka is inspired by and crafted with Lake Tahoe sourced water. Using a unique 3-vodka blend of grapes, corn and sugarcane, this expertly crafted spirit is gluten-free and known for its clean, crisp taste and smooth finish, giving consumers a taste of the Tahoe lifestyle year-round. Originally sold out of the back of Levitt’s car, the brand is now the fastest-growing vodka brand in California. Since its conception, the brand has won numerous spirit competition awards including a Gold Award in the SUNSET 2021 Inaugural Spirit Awards Program, a Double Gold Medal in the “Best Domestic Vodka” category by The Fifty Best in 2020 and a 2019 SUNSET International Spirits Competition Best of Class, and Gold Award. Through its parent company, Tahoe Spirits, Inc., Tahoe Blue Vodka has already donated over $100K of its proceeds to organizations that work to protect Lake Tahoe and its surrounding environment. For more information, visit www.tahoebluevodka.com

Clean Up the Lake

Clean Up The Lake Volunteers. Photo: Laura Visconti)

About Clean Up The Lake 

Clean Up The Lake is a nonprofit organization whose mission is to fight back against plastic and all forms of pollution in the global environment, both on land and under the surface, starting with Lake Tahoe and the Cayes in Belize. Our flagship project is the first ever man powered circumnavigation of Lake Tahoe using SCUBA. This project, set to commence in spring 2021, will be accompanied by a large-scale trash clean-up of every inch of the 72-mile sub-surface shoreline funded by Tahoe Blue Vodka, Tahoe Fund, Nevada Division of State Lands License Plate Grant, Tahoe Truckee Community Foundation & Martis Fund, Tahoe Mountain Resorts Foundation & American Century Championship. Learn more at cleanupthelake.org.

About Nevada Division of State Lands/Tahoe License Plates 

Administered by the Nevada Division of State Lands through the Nevada Tahoe Resource Team, since 1998, Nevada Lake Tahoe License Plate (NV-LTLP) sales and annual renewal fees have been invested in projects that help protect, restore, and enhance Lake Tahoe’s unique natural environment. Projects funded directly through the NV-LTLP program range from water quality initiatives and state park improvements, to research and monitoring studies, invasive species surveys and removal, climate change research, and public education efforts. To date, the NV-LTLP program has generated over $9 million, funding over 165 preservation and restoration projects on the Nevada side of Lake Tahoe. All Nevadans can help preserve and protect Lake Tahoe by purchasing a Lake Tahoe license plate for $61 with an annual renewal fee of $30.

Learn more: lands.nv.gov/TahoePlate