Drought dripping Lahontan dry

Drought and record temperatures have diminished the water supply for water users in the Carson District.

At Wednesday’s Truckee-Carson Irrigation District Board of Directors meeting, Deputy Project Manager Walt Winder discussed those issues and an early cutoff date for Carson users.

The Truckee Division, meanwhile, will receive its 100 percent water allocation.

Due to storage levels at Lahontan Reservoir, however, Winder and the board laid out a plan of action to close the season. By his projections, Winder targeted Oct. 1 through mid-October for users to receive deliveries.

As of Wednesday, Lahontan held 44,290 acre-feet of water, although Winder and the district saw the possibility of an early close to the season in March. According to forecasts, the reservoir is behind by about 6,000 acre-feet, with environmental factors contributing to the decreased water level.

In the spring, the board voted to allocate 75 percent to Carson users due to a below average snowpack in the Sierra Mountains.

The cutoff for deliveries at Lahontan Reservoir, according to Winder, is 4,000 acre-feet, which he said at a previous meeting is for carryover water and to protect the fish in the lake.

“We will hit that target,” Winder said. “As far as the exact date, (I) don’t really know. It’s a moving target.”

In addition, Winder said it takes about 2,000 acre-feet to charge the system, another reason the district — despite no policy currently in place — has a minimum pool.

Coupled with a low snowpack and the hottest July on record since the 1880s, water levels are about on par with the district’s spring forecast.

Currently, the flows from Lahontan Dam are at about 700 cubic-feet per second, Winder said, although those flows are expected to drop to about 400 cfs in the coming weeks.

Two concerns for the district, however, are a sudden rush of water orders in the coming weeks and farmers who are planning to seed. A rush of orders would decrease the reservoir’s storage faster than anticipated and possibly lead to a September cutoff.

“It can condense that time,” Winder said of a possible rush.

Winder, though, said water users who do not consume their allotment will not be penalized, and will be allocated the same amount of water in 2014.

Despite the earlier-than-usual shutdown, Director Eric Olsen said many of the farmers are aware of the situation. In addition, he said most of those individuals who he has spoken to are down to one or two irrigations, which would not be enough to yield a successful crop and therefore may not need water.

Winder echoed Olsen’s remarks and said he hopes some conservation may lead to more than 4,000 acre-feet in the reservoir.

“In years past people have been afraid to leave water on the books,” he said. “Water left on the books is not held against you in any way. It’s not held in a positive way either. It’s just gone.

“Leaving a little bit of water in the dam would leave us in a little better position for next year.”

In other TCID news —

Individuals contracted to trap gophers must secure the water-righted landowners signature upon completion of the rodent control.

TCID pays individuals 50 cents per tail for trapping to assist with rodent issues, although an accurate tally of traps is required. Issues of fraud eased last year, Olsen said, as claims dropped by about $3,000 once the district required a signature by the landowner.

The trapper fills out the form, but the landowner must verify the number of gophers caught.

At issue, however, is some landowners are not signing the paperwork to ensure an accurate number to prevent fraud. The district pays 50 cents per tail.

For information, details of individual water accounts or the trapping program, contact TCID at 775-423-2141.


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