It's starting off to be another dry year

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The reels are still spinning on the slot machine that is Nevada's weather, but it looks like they may be coming up dry.

While another storm is predicted to arrive today, it would have to be a doozy to make up for the opening six weeks of 2002.

In an average year, there should be just over 5 inches of precipitation by the end of February, just under half the amount of moisture Western Nevada receives for the entire year.

Including a wet December, there has been less than half that so far, raising the possibility of a second dry year in a row.

Moisture for 2001 was half of average and led to predictions that the cycle of drought might have returned to the Sierra Nevada.

Pat Hawkins has lived in Western Nevada for just a few years. He was born in Elko and worked for the railroad for 40 years.

He has been fishing in Davis Creek pond since 1995 and was shocked when the pond dried up early last summer.

"A lot of people were disappointed because they couldn't fish there," he said.

The 71-year-old Gardnerville resident suggests drilling some wells to fill the pond throughout the year.

The park, operated by Washoe County, has a single well for drinking water and does not have the right to convert that water from a municipal use to an agricultural use, such as the pond.

Park operators are philosophical about the pond, which is fed by the Ophir Creek Ditch and Davis Creek.

Once the water sources dry up, the pond soon follows, according to Park Ranger Geoff Taylor.

"Drought is part of the normal process," he said.

Last year's dry winter was one for the record books, with the Ophir Creek Ditch and Davis Creek drying up on May 28.

"If there is a normal amount of water, the pond will be fine," he said. "But last year was terrible."

The suggestion that the park might be able to pump its way through the dry years is something that has been tried before.

Taylor said that in the early 1980s park personnel tried refilling the pond from its municipal well.

"We couldn't pump enough water to make a difference," he said. "And when operations saw the electric bill, they told us to quit it."

Control of the water in Ophir Ditch is another issue. The park has a water right in the ditch, but use of the water depends on weather conditions.

"We don't want to take the chance of drying up our well," Taylor said.

The pond is regulalry stocked with fish by the state Department of Wildlife. When the pond dries out, people become upset, Taylor said.

"But it comes back," he said.


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