As California suffers the effects of a two-year drought, the level of Lake Tahoe is dropping at a rate that will leave Nevada farmers without irrigation water by next month and the headwaters of the Truckee River high and dry by the end of the summer.

The 1,600-foot deep Lake Tahoe already is more than three feet below its average level, exposing piers and creating some hazards for holiday boaters and swimmers. Some boat-launching ramps are so far from shore they are useless, while marinas around the lake have had to resort to dredging to make their channels passable.Yet, while Lake Tahoe is suffering the impact of the drought, its depth and size protect it from the severe impact being witnessed at smaller man-made reservoirs around California.

In fact, according to tourism promoters, the Lake Tahoe area may do a booming business this year as boaters are forced to leave lakes closer to home in search of deeper water and vacationers want to wake up to a cool breeze off a high mountain lake.

Because of the lower level in the lake, the flow into the Truckee River is already being curtailed, and that is bringing renewed discussion of pumping water from Tahoe to quench the thirst of Nevada residents downstream.

The lake has not been pumped since the drought of 1934, and any move to pump it again would be vigorously opposed by lakefront property owners.

Unless something is done, dozens of farmers will lose alfalfa, onion and garlic crops, warned John James, chairman of the Nevada governor's special drought committee. "We're talking about dollar losses in the millions," he said.