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TMWA answers questions about drought, water conservation


TMWA Water Supply Update and Forecast

Overview:  At the end of July, TMWA customers will be asked to reduce their outdoor water use by 10% and not water from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m.  When mandated Truckee River flows cannot be sustained, and drought reserves are needed, TMWA will ask customers for additional conservation.  Fortunately, TMWA has planned for these types of dry cycles and will be able to use its upstream drought reserves to augment reduced river flows, as well as use its groundwater reserves, to meet customer demands. Late July is the time when our customers can make a difference by conserving water, which will reduce the amount of drought reserves TMWA needs to release.

When will “Reduce Your Use by 10%” start?

TMWA will begin asking customers to “Reduce Your Use by 10%,” and avoid watering between 11 a.m. and 7 p.m., when mandated river flows cannot be sustained and drought reserves are needed. This is projected to happen in late July.  Reservoir releases from Lake Tahoe and Boca Reservoir (which are not TMWA drought reserves) are required to meet mandated river flows at the CA/NV state line. These releases are administered by the Federal Water Master under court decrees from the 1940’s. The current water supply forecast shows that upstream reservoir storage will be sufficient to provide releases for the required rates of river flow through the end of July. When the water levels in Lake Tahoe and Boca Reservoir are no longer sufficient to release water for minimum flows, Truckee River flows will begin to drop off. At that time, TMWA plans to make releases from our drought storage reservoirs (Donner and Independence Lakes) to supply water to our treatment plants. That is the time when we will be asking our customers for their assistance.  By reducing outdoor water use by 10%, customers will help minimize the amount we need to release from drought reserves.

Can’t TMWA save conserved water now?

The good news is that right now, TMWA’s drought supply reservoirs – Donner and Independence Lakes – are full. Until we have room in our reservoirs, TMWA has no place to store additional conserved water. We are planning to use our drought reserves as late in the summer as possible and will ask our customers for their help in conserving when it counts, which will be when we start using those reserves. TMWA will continue its three-day- a-week watering schedules throughout the summer and encourages everyone to use water responsibly. Our customers have always been diligent about conservation and are encouraged to keep up the good work.

Why only focus on outdoor watering?

The average customer’s water use is approximately four times higher in the summer, due to outdoor water use. Customers have a great conservation ethic and are already very efficient using water indoors. So, focusing on outdoor water use is where we can get the biggest impact in water savings.

Why 10%?

Projections show a 10% reduction in water use during late summer will allow TMWA to keep Independence Reservoir full this year, and result in robust drought reserves for next year, should the dry cycle continue.

Why is there no watering from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m.?

The no-watering times will be expanded from noon – 6 p.m. to 11 a.m. – 7 p.m.  This is at the hottest and windiest time of the day when more water is lost to evaporation and saves more water. It is also one of the measures to be deployed when river flows are impacted before Labor Day (as cited in TMWA’s 2010-2030 Water Resource Plan).

 How will the community be informed?

TMWA will begin an educational, community outreach plan on radio, print, TV and online. We will start the campaign about a week in advance to remind our customers of how they can help.

How much water do we get from the Truckee River? 

The amount of water that TMWA draws from the Truckee River is probably a lot less than you would think. Typically, TMWA meets more than 85 percent of our annual customer demand using the Truckee River. Yet, in the aggregate, TMWA is the smallest major user on the river system, only using eight percent during a dry year and three percent in a normal year.

How is the Truckee Meadows prepared for a drought?

Drought is a natural occurrence in the high desert and this community is well prepared. We are fortunate to have a robust supply system of upstream reservoirs and underground reserves available for use during dry years. Groundwater supplies are also enhanced and protected each winter when TMWA injects approximately five million gallons of treated water per day through its wells into the groundwater aquifer for future drought-year use.

TMWA plans for dry years.  Our staff continually monitors weather and snowpack conditions and plans for a nine-year dry weather cycle, which is one year longer than the worst drought on record. For a deeper look at TMWA’s resource planning, the “2010-2030 Water Resource Plan” can be downloaded here: www.tmwa.com/water_system/resources/2030wrp.  Portions of the plan, which was adopted by the TMWA Board of Directors in 2009, are incorporated into the Regional Water Management Plan which is maintained by the Western Regional Water Commission.

In addition, this is a community that has always focused on water conservation, not only in dry years, but in plentiful years. The average household is using 15 percent less water than 10 years ago. Our citizens have always valued our precious water resources and conservation.  Here’s more information on our water resources: www.tmwa.com/water_system/resources/2030wrp.

Assigned-Day Watering details:

Assigned Day Watering is in effect. As a reminder, each home or business has three days to water each week. If the last number of your home or business address is even (0, 2, 4, 6, 8), please water on Tuesday, Thursdays and/or Saturdays.  If the last number of your home or business address is odd (1, 3, 5, 7, 9), water only on Sundays, Wednesdays and/or Fridays.  Please don’t water on Mondays, as it is a day of rest for the water system, giving it a chance to recharge.  Starting the end of July, please do not water from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Keep in mind weather-wise watering:  water deeper and less often; water at cooler times of day to avoid high temperatures; never water when it is windy; and reduce watering in the fall to help lawns and plants go dormant.

How will the conservation rules be enforced?

We are serious about encouraging responsible water use and preventing waste. If you see water being wasted, please let us know and call the conservation department at 834-8005, or use this form:  www.tmwa.com/conservation/assigned_day_watering/report_waste.  Those customers who waste water will be contacted. We will also have staff patrolling during the summer and will look out for water waste, as we have done for many years.

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