With the record breaking winter northern Nevada just experienced, there is no longer any drought in the area, but does that mean that residents should forget about water conservation?
Officials at Truckee Meadows Water Authority say no.
Bill Hauck, senior hydrologist at TMWA, on Thursday said water conservation efforts are one of the ways residents can help create greater drought resilience in the community for future years when snowpack and precipitation aren’t as great as this past winter.
One of the reasons that the Truckee Meadows Water Authority has been so successful at managing the region’s water supply has been the constant water conservation efforts in the last 40 years, Hauck said. By continuing to practice proper water etiquette, we are giving ourselves more water for any future dry periods or even future droughts.
“We had a tremendous snowpack at the end of February and that was followed up by record precipitation in the month of March,” Hauck said. “April 1 snowpack measurements were at an all-time high. Record amounts of water in the snowpack measured on April 1 in the Truckee River Basin actually set an all-time record.
“In fact there were many records broken all throughout the Sierra Nevada, some records going back 80 to 100-plus years. It really ended up being a tremendous, tremendous snowpack year for the region,” Hauck added.
TMWA’s State of the Water presentation on Thursday highlighted how beneficial this last winter has been by completely resetting the region’s entire water system – from Lake Tahoe and the reservoirs all down the Truckee River. With the current snowpack at 242% of normal, the region can set aside worry about any water scarcity for the next two to three years, even if not a single drop of precipitation fell for the rest of the year, Hauck said.
The official “non-drought” designation for the region took effect on April 15, 2023. Only 23% of Nevada is in a state of moderate drought according to the U.S. Drought Monitor, mostly in the area around Las Vegas.
“The difference between our system and Las Vegas’ system off the Colorado River is they are dependent on snowpack and runoff from the Rocky Mountains,” Hauck said.
As of April 1, Lake Tahoe has seen a rise in previous water levels of 3.2 feet with another expected 3 feet by July. This will ensure the water levels in the Truckee River will be high, and very cold, all throughout the summer, factors that should be considered when engaging in river activities.
Many of the water use practices the area has adopted have led to water efficiency and dropped the rate of water consumption per person. In the last 20 years, the gallon per person metric has gone down 30%, meaning that even with the new construction, water use is down.
“Our integrated approach to managing our water supply, we consider all of our sources of supply as part of a single system,” Hauck said. “It gives us a lot of flexibility in how we operate. Basically, any one of our sources of supply can meet customer demand alone depending on the time of year, but managed conjunctively with increased system redundancy, we created a drought resilient water supply for our customers here in northern Nevada.”
Some of the precautions residents take today have their origins as far back as 40 years starting with the voluntary restrictions of outdoor watering in the 1980s that turned into mandatory restrictions in the 1990s.
The current outdoor water restrictions, such as even and odd watering days, should be continued with no watering on Mondays and between the hours of 12 and 6 pm.
TMWA provides water services to an estimated 460,000 people in the area with the help of three surface water treatment plants and over 80 production wells of groundwater. In addition to the water, there are three operating hydroelectric plants that generate a revenue of about $3.5 million per year.