Dealing with Drought part 1 of 5: How are we prepared?

About this series

This is Reno sat down with Kim Mazeres, Truckee Meadows Water Authority’s director of customer relations, to explore the complex topic of how a water purveyor deals with the tough realities of drought. We sought to find out more about our area’s water use in key areas:

  1. How well prepared our region is to deal with drought.
  2. Why TMWA schedules water conservation for specific times rather than year-round.
  3. Why TMWA is tapping its reserves for the first time in 20 years.
  4. Which water users are most targeted for conservation, and why.
  5. What rules and regulations require TMWA to act and when.
  6. What key agreement, now in court, will greatly improve our region’s ability to respond to drought.

Video interviews accompany each post in this series, exploring these topics in more detail.


Dealing with Drought part 1 of 5

By Bob Conrad, video interview by Bob Conrad and Chris Vega

THIS IS RENO: How are TMWA and the Truckee Meadows prepared for a drought?

Kim MazeresKIM MAZERES, Truckee Meadows Water Authority: Drought is a natural occurrence in the high desert and this community is well prepared. TMWA plans for dry years.

Our staff continually monitors weather and snowpack conditions and has a Drought Plan for a nine-year dry weather cycle, which is one year longer than the worst drought on record.

We have had a drought plan since the late 1980s. In addition, this is a community that has always focused on water conservation, not only in dry years, but in plentiful years. Our customers have always valued our precious water resources and conservation.

There seems to be some misunderstanding among some that we are not doing enough. The fact is, this community and Truckee Meadows Water Authority have prepared for this for a long time and we are implementing a long-established drought plan. We’ve planned, we’re prepared and we will get through the summer with minimal impacts on the community as a result of this preparation.

What are the current projections given the 2014 drought?

TMWA will begin asking customers to “Reduce Their Use by 10%,” and avoid watering between 11 a.m. and 7 p.m., when mandated Truckee River flows cannot be sustained and drought reserves are needed.

This is projected to happen in late July.

The current water supply forecast shows that upstream reservoir storage will be sufficient for the Federal Water Master to provide mandated 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.

That’s when TMWA’s plans go into effect. That is when TMWA will begin releasing water 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 percent, customers will help minimize the amount we need to release from drought reserves. Until then, any water that the community saves cannot be stored or held back, due to federally mandated river flows.

Media in Las Vegas have recycled stories about “top water users.” What is TMWA’s take on such an approach, given your knowledge of the region’s water system, the seasonal availability of water supply and having to time conservation efforts based on available drought reserves?

We question whether our customers’ personal and usage information is relevant to the discussion of conservation. It’s wrong to assume that our top 100 water users do not conserve or are part of the drought problem. These are the customers who have the greatest motivation to save on their bills.

It’s also important to remember that, like all TMWA customers, their ability to use water is based on water rights that were allocated to their property when water service was established, so these customers have established rights to use this water as consistent with Nevada water law.

Water use by square foot would be more helpful in terms of understanding water-use efficiency. When you look at what the Las Vegas media did with this information last month – we don’t really see how it was helpful. It only resulted in public scorn for individuals who likely didn’t deserve it.

The only way that management of our resource during a drought works is saving a small amount from all customers – and timed when it counts – when we can actually save it.

Read the complete serieshttp://conradcomm.wpengine.com/dealing-drought/

FIND OUT MORE

Here’s more information on TMWA’s water resources: www.tmwa.com/water_system/resources/2030wrp.   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.

Bob Conrad
About Bob Conrad 1059 Articles
Bob Conrad is co-founder of ThisisReno. He manages ThisisReno and Conrad Communications, LLC, his marketing communications consulting company. He also works part time for the University of Nevada, Reno.