Talk of drought and extraordinarily low precipitation in the West, including eastern California and most of Nevada, fills the news. Flows were very low in 2013 for most Nevada rivers, including the Carson River. The river supplies much of Carson City’s and Douglas County’s water, as well as the water for up- and downstream counties. Most farmers and ranchers who irrigate from the Carson and Truckee rivers only had water available during spring runoff, which ended by early July.
The NWS reports that almost all Nevada counties and all California counties bordering Nevada have been designated natural drought disaster areas by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Carson City and Storey, Douglas and other western Nevada counties are considered some of the driest areas, with less than 45 percent of normal precipitation since January 2013. Our area received about 4 inches of precipitation last year. Eight to 10 inches is normal. Snowpack for the Sierra Nevada Mountains is 10 percent of normal for the Truckee River and 21 percent of normal for Lake Tahoe, according to the California Department of Water Resources. This may be the third severe drought year in a row.
The dry weather increased the fire danger last summer and will most likely do so next summer, unless we see significant storms in the next month or two. Drought-stressed trees are susceptible to bark beetle and other insect attacks, becoming sources of wildfire fuel as they succumb to the infestations. Because native vegetation had been affected, wildlife has reduced food supplies, increasing bear and deer visits in yards. Fortunately, water supplies have been adequate in urban/suburban areas.
The extremely dry weather means landscape trees, shrubs and roses will suffer unless they are watered soon, particularly if they were planted in the past few years. Winter watering is critical to the survival of trees and other plants next spring and summer. Dragging hoses may be necessary unless you want to re-winterize your irrigation system each time you water. Soak the area around your plants out to the dripline of the branches. To conserve water, prevent runoff. Water slowly, during the warmest part of the day, so that water will soak in. The ideal amount of water to apply is enough to soak the ground 8 to 12 inches deep. Water once per month until it rains or snows.
Let’s pray for a few good storms!
JoAnne Skelly is the Carson City/Storey County Extension educator for University of Nevada Cooperative Extension and may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 775-887-2252.