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Dry conditions equals short water season

Steve Puterski
sputerski@lahontanvalleynews.com
The 2015 water season is expected to be one of the worst in at least 20 years as users are limited to a 20 percent allocation.

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For information concerning water orders, scheduling or about the water season, contact TCID at 775-423-2141 or visit their website at http://www.tcid.org.

FERNLEY — Several dozen residents here attended the Truckee-Carson Irrigation District’s annual water users meeting at the Fernley City Hall all knowing the state of the Newlands Project is dire.

The district held its Fallon meeting on Thursday at the Churchill County Commissioners Chambers.

A years-long drought paired with a crippling lack of snowfall and rain this winter and early spring has left irrigators with little recourse.

TCID President Ernie Schank said this water season may be the worst on record since 1994, and it could turn out to be even harsher.

“Some may run out of water after one irrigation,” he added.

The district allocation is just 20 percent for users in the Truckee and Carson districts with an expected shut-down date for the Truckee Canal and system expected to be in mid- to late June.

“This is not a normal year, but try to water like a normal year,” TCID Vice President David Stix Jr. said. “If there is a mad rush for orders and flows are down, we can deliver.”

When asked if the district will notify users of the impending shutdown, Deputy Project Manager Walt Winder said it is best to prepare as if the final water orders will be at the beginning of June. The district, though, said they will field calls and ditchriders will make a sincere effort to notify users when the season appears to be close to an end.

Complicating the situation is the dry fields and the water need to initially irrigate. Winder said it will take more water to start up production than normal since soil conditions are so dry.

“The first irrigation will take a lot of water,” he said. “Far more than you are used to.”

Project Manager Rusty Jardine said the issue not only affects the Lahontan Valley but also much of the West including the Central Valley in California.

He said the best options for some farmers may be to keep fields out of production this year. In addition, the district has received six water orders for a total of 148 acre-feet, although deliveries will not begin until the 1,000 acre-feet threshold has been met.

“Just do your very best,” Jardine said. “Make sure you have the best application of that water you can.”

As the drought grips ranchers and farmers, it also puts TCID in a tough position financially.

Jardine said the district’s average annual budget is between $6.5 million to $7 million with a portion augmented by hydroelectric power from Lahontan Reservoir and 26-foot Drop.

Since the lake will not be close to full this year, the revenue generated from the power stations will decrease leaving the district without those funds it would have in a normal season.

“Our revenue will decline sharply because of it,” Jardine explained.

Schank, meanwhile, added the critical state of the drought may extended into next year. When asked if the canal may be watered in the fall, Schank said it may happen in October or November, but cautioned the canal may be dry until spring 2016.

“If it’s dry, then possibly nothing until next spring, “ he added. “It’s pretty serious.”