Leave Only Footprints

In our new "Leave Only Footprints" series of articles and tips, the Incline Village General Improvement District strives to help educate our local and visitor communities about sustainability measures and expectations to keep our natural environment pristine.

In 1972, The Porter Cologne act triggered the requirement for all sanitary sewer waste to be exported out of the Tahoe Basin (and banned the use of septic systems). This was done to reduce nutrient and pathogen loading from human fecal waste in the basin. That took care of the human impacts, but domestic animal waste, especially dog waste, remains a concern. 

Tahoe is a dog’s paradise, with endless trails and cool fresh water. But dog waste has potential harmful impacts on the watershed, if not collected and disposed of properly. With additional full-time residents and visitors around the region this summer, dog numbers have increased and with them comes more poop.

Proper disposal of pet waste is important to protect Tahoe’s watershed. Dog waste poses a threat to waterways because it carries nitrogen and phosphorus, which can create algae, and also spreads diseases that are dangerous to humans. When freshly produced, dog poop can host a number of pathogens including giardia and salmonella, fecal coliform bacteria, e. coli, and other contaminants. Picking it up and properly disposing of it directly protects our water and watershed. 

IVGID’s Waste Not team maintains a water quality sampling program at select Incline Village creeks and beach areas. The good news is that water sampling at these sites doesn’t show any tremendous impacts from dog or wildlife waste, according to Madonna Dunbar, Tahoe Water Suppliers Association executive director. And once dry, dog feces become biologically inactive, meaning that, though still unsightly, it can no longer shed contaminants into the water.

“But this doesn’t mean people shouldn’t be responsible about it,” Dunbar said. “We have a lot of dogs. As a community we need to think on a community level about dogs. We are talking about tens of thousands of pounds of dog waste in the Basin.”

To promote responsible pet ownership, the Tahoe Water Suppliers Association (TWSA) has sponsored 100 dog waste bag stations, targeting trails, stream zones and neighborhood hot spots, throughout communities in the Tahoe Basin. 

IVGID’s Parks Department has placed dozens of dog waste bag dispensers throughout our community properties. It’s a dog owner’s responsibility (per Washoe County ordinance) to clean up after your dog. These efforts really help keep our community properties clean. IVGID’s Parks staff makes every effort to get what is missed, but staff resources are limited. 

Want to know more? Local news outlet Moonshine Ink recently published an extensively researched story on this topic: "Clash of the Leashes"