Disappointing snow pack reading
January 14, 2014
The first snow measurement in the Sierra Mountains near South Lake Tahoe last week did not produce good news, either for those in the Tahoe basin or in the agricultural areas of California and Nevada.
The measurement is — quite frankly — scary.
While other parts of the United States are sick and tired of trudging through one snowstorm after another, western Nevada valleys, for example, have only seen several dustings of the white stuff, hardly enough to make a dent in any of the area's water sources, especially along the Truckee River, which feeds into the Truckee Canal at Derby Dam.
The snow pack is 33 percent of normal, 20 percent in other places, and if the trend continues for the rest of the winter and into the spring, both Nevada and neighboring California will be feeling the pinch.
The winter snow pack in the northern and central Sierra provides about a third of California's water supply, while Nevada — to include the Walker, Carson and Truckee watersheds — receives 90-95 percent from the Sierra.
Ranchers and farmers in western Nevada — to include the Lahontan Valley — are casting a weary eye watching weather and water forecasts from now until growing season.
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The daily water master report for Lahontan Reservoir is showing 47,026 acre feet of water, down from the same time last year when water levels were also low and only a drop in the bucket from 2012 when the reservoir was nearly full of water with 197,078 acre feet.
With the rest of the month not looking good for receiving any substantial amount of snow in the mountains, we can only hope for a very wet February, March and April to put a dent into the drought conditions.
If the Sierra doesn't receive a decent snow pack within that time, western Nevada ranchers and farmers could face a reduced supply of water and a shortened growing season, which will produce a domino affect for those people who rely on agriculture.
Government officials, no doubt, will also look at water rationing and odd and even days for watering lawns. Longtime residents of the area know of the frustration of having to curtail their water use or for farmers to struggle through a growing season.
Nothing can be done now except to cross fingers for some brutal Sierra storms or for a rain or snow dance to produce an abundance of the white stuff to saturate the rivers and reservoirs.
Editorials written by the LVN Editorial Board appear on Wednesdays.