Northern Nevada is headed into a drought year the likes of which have not been seen since 2015, and water officials in the Truckee Meadows are warning residents to get ready to conserve.
According to the Truckee Meadows Water Authority’s Bill Hauck, the snowpack in the Sierra Nevada is about 68% of normal. Conditions, he said, are “just like” 2015, and that’s not a good thing.
SNOTEL—snow telemetry sites—are automated systems that measure snowpack and related climate sensors. They’re operated by the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) of the United States Department of Agriculture in the western United States. Hauck said the snowpack at all but one of the 20 SNOTEL sites monitored in our regions has completely melted already.
Full flow rates along the Truckee River corridor are only expected to remain full through the third week of August.
Thankfully, he said, 2019 was a good water year for the region. While outflow from Lake Tahoe and other water reserve basins will be crucial to meet water needs in the Truckee Meadows, water officials have said drought reserves will suffice.
During the drought of 2015, Tahoe and other surface water storage reservoirs, including Boca, Prosser and Stampede reservoirs and Independence and Donner lakes held less than half the current water storage they contain today. The 53,000-acre-feet of water in storage right now is expected to meet the region’s needs.
Nonetheless, with Lake Tahoe expected to reach its natural rim level by October and Boca Reservoir’s water storage expected to be depleted by October, TMWA officials are asking residents to prepare to conserve.
Beginning on Memorial Day and extending through Labor Day, lawn watering will be subject to normal summer restrictions but with two additional hours. Watering between noon and 6 p.m. is usually prohibited during summer months. This year, the prohibition will extend from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m.
Those at even numbered addresses will still be allowed to water Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays. Odd addresses can water Wednesdays, Fridays and Sundays. No one should water on Mondays.
TMWA has hired additional water monitors to keep an eye on lawn watering in the Truckee Meadows. There are usually 14 water monitors. This year, Hauck said, there will be closer to 20.
While it is possible that citations might be given to those flouting watering rules, Hauck said the goal of water monitors is largely education. Water monitors will leave flyers on people’s doors when they observe water waste resulting from things like leaks or broken sprinkler heads.
The last time similar water restrictions were put into place in the region was 2016, following the dry winter of 2015.
In the Truckee Meadows, TMWA sells reclaimed water back to larger users like golf courses. It does not, however, have a Water Smart Landscapes rebate program like the one in Clark County. There, the Southern Nevada Water Authority incentivizes residents who remove turf from their properties. Still, TMWA Director of Operations and Water Quality Andy Gebhardt said homeowners who don’t use their lawns should consider removing them.
Jeri Chadwell came to Reno from rural Nevada in 2004 to study anthropology at the University of Nevada, Reno. In 2012, she returned to the university for a master’s degree in journalism. She is the former associate and news editor of the Reno News & Review and is a recipient of first-place Nevada Press Association awards for investigative and business reporting. Jeri is passionate about Nevada’s history, politics and communities.