The Truckee Carson Irrigation District will begin taking water orders for the upcoming growing season next week with deliveries planned for Thursday or after, said Rusty Jardine, TCID’s general manager and legal counsel.
Jardine said water users will receive 100 percent of allocation, and the growing season should extend into the fall. The TCID board of directors met Tuesday to discuss the Lahontan Valley’s water situation and heard a presentation from the National Weather Service. Jardine said Lahontan Reservoir had 245,590 acre-feet of water as of March 5 compared to 243,442 acre-feet in 2017.
“We’re in a good position,” Jardine said. “We still have water coming in on the Carson (River) side.”
Jardine also said the regulatory reservoirs, such as Harmon and Sheckler, have ample water. Compared to the record snowfall during the 2017-2018 winter and the amount of water coming through the Carson River corridor and into the reservoirs, Jardine said TCID is not seeing the same situation from one year ago.
The NWS, though, is forecasting rain and snow for the Sierra for the next six days with a chance of rain showers predicted for the Fallon-Carson City area through Sunday. NWS meteorologist Scott McGuire said several weather systems will be coming through western Nevada, and one storm forecasted for next week could drop snow at the 7,000-foot level but with the accompanying cold front, snow levels could drop to valley floors.
“We have the probability for some bigger storms midweek, but we’ll have to see how things pan out,” he said.
McGuire also said Lake Tahoe is near capacity. The U.S. Geological Survey reports the lake’s current elevation is at 6,220 feet with the natural rim of the lake at 6,223 feet. Jardine said with the storage at Lake Tahoe, TCID will not use the Truckee River to divert water to the Lahontan Reservoir via the Truckee Canal.
“The canal will still be used for our users in Fernley, Swingle Bench and Hazen,” Jardine said.
Jardine said TCID could’ve diverted water from the canal to the reservoir in February, but he said there was no need because of current water levels.
The latest snowpack data taken by the Natural Resources Conservation Services (Nevada) on Monday, though, shows below average numbers. Hydrologist Jeff Anderson said the storms coming through western Nevada in March should help with the snowpack totals.
“The late cold storms will delay (runoff) reaching the reservoirs,” he said.
NRCS installs, operates and maintains an extensive, automated network of SNOTEL weather stations to collect snowpack and related climatic data in the Western United States. In addition to measuring the snowpack’s water content, SNOTEL sites also measure annual precipitation, air temperature, snow depth and soil moisture.
Anderson said last weekend’s Sierra storm added between 2 to 5.5 inches of water to the snowpack at SNOTEL sites. The Carson Basin increased 16 percent from 40 to 56 percent (10th lowest since 1981), while the Walker Basin increased 15 percent from 39 to 54 percent (now 10th lowest since 1979). He said Monday’s depth of 86 inches holds a water content 22.5 inches, 67 percent of median. Compared to the same time one year ago, the snow depth was 212 inches, and the water content was 74.6 inches or 229 percent of the March 1 median.
McGuire and Anderson said late winter, early spring storms have the potential to improve the water outlook for the rest of the year. Anderson referenced 1991 when a series of storms battered the Sierra and the March precipitation was 250 to 290 percent of normal.
“We’re still doing much better than in 2015,” Anderson said, referring to the critical drought reports affecting most of Nevada.