Summer water supplies 'very tight'

Northern Nevada will receive only half the water it normally gets this summer and Lake Tahoe is expected to drop below its rim following an unusually warm spring and below-normal snowpack, experts predict.

Water forecasts show the Carson River will see 53 percent of its normal runoff, and it might even see as little as 46 percent, according to a water supply outlook report issued by the Natural Resources Conservation Service.

"Water supplies will be very tight and many areas of the state will not get full allocations for yet one more year," the report says.

Carson City, which needs 22 million to 23 million gallons of water a day during the summer months, will be able to produce only about 18.5 million gallons of water a day with already-stressed groundwater well production, said Utilities Manager Tom Hoffert.

The city will pull water from storage and two new wells to make up the difference, he said.

"We're concerned because it's going to take every water-producing source we have available to us to meet Carson City's water demands this irrigation season," Hoffert said. "Barring any major failure, we anticipate meeting water needs of Carson City as long as people abide by the water restrictions."

Beginning Tuesday, the city is requiring residents again to water on odd and even days according to their street addresses and not water on the 31st of the month. The city issues fines for residents found not following the restrictions.

Lake Tahoe's water level is only 1 foot above the rim currently, said Kelly Redmond, regional climatologist with the Western Regional Climate Center at the Desert Research Institute in Reno.

The lake usually rises 18 inches each year with runoff and then depletes through evaporation during the summer months. This year, the lake is expected to rise by only 6 inches.

"It's got big beautiful beaches because it's only about a foot above the rim," Redmond said. "I wouldn't be surprised to see it go 6 inches below the rim later in the summer."

The water level drop is expected to dry up the stream that usually rushes beneath Fanny Bridge in Tahoe City, leaving rocks instead of water for visitors at the popular spot.

"This year, we had a pretty miserable March, and April didn't help much, so we lost a lot of ground in April," Redmond said. "We lost when we're normally gaining in snowpack. Because of that, the estimates of stream flow fell quite a bit and we never really picked that back up again."

Last year, Carson City received 80 percent of its average water for the summer as the area continued drought conditions.

Domestic wells began drying up as groundwater levels dropped.

City water wells will be stressed as they pull up water from a deeper level, Hoffert said. The city's well production capacity is being reduced by 1.5 million gallons a day.

"We're depleting underground storage because of several years of drought," Hoffert said.

Contact Jill Lufrano at or 881-1217.


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