Latest storms improve water outlook
February 13, 2019
The 2019 water year is having a familiar ring to it.
Buoyed by early February snowstorms that have dropped upward to 15 feet in the Sierra Nevada, the snowpack and water content are recording numbers not seen since the first two months of 2017 when one storm after another battered Northern Nevada.
After its recent snowpack survey last week, the Natural Resources Conservation Service said its SNOTEL reading at Mount Rose shows snow depth at 115 inches, which contains 30.5 inches of water or 117 percent of normal.
"The most recent storm added nearly 4 feet of new snow and 6.5 inches of water," reports the NRCS. "It takes five-six storms of that size to give us an average winter. We need one or two more."
With the one storm at the beginning of the month, the NRCS said the Truckee Basin snowpack went from 103 percent of median on Feb. 1 to 130 percent of median six days later. In 2018, the snowpack was 45 percent of normal.
Both the Carson and Walker watersheds are reporting 128-136 percent of normal, almost triple from 2018.
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Rusty Jardine, general manager and legal counsel for the Truckee Carson Irrigation District, said ranchers and farmers in the Lahontan Valley will have another banner growing season with a full reservoir.
"We're looking at 100 percent with the storage and forecast coming to us, Jardine said.
Although the storage at Lahontan Reservoir is down from 2018, its total as of Feb. 10 is on par with 2017, which saw a record amount of water flowing into the reservoir from January through April. The reservoir's current storage is 150,375 acre-feet compared to 180,470 acre-feet two years ago. In 2018, it was 235,584 acre-feet. With a record year for runoff in 2017, the reservoir was able to store much of its water from the 2017 season and began the water year at near capacity, which is 295,000 acre-feet. One acre-foot equals about 326,000 gallons, which would cover the size of a football field with water one foot deep.
Currently, water from the Truckee Canal, which begins at the Truckee River's Derby Dam, is flowing into the reservoir, but as the storage level increases, Jardine said water from the Truckee Canal will be curtailed only to Fernley, Swingle Bench and Hazen.
Jardine said the TCID Board of Directors also approved taking water orders beginning on March 1 with deliveries commencing mid-month. He said the decision was made because of the water content and soil conditions throughout the valley.
The U.S. Drought Monitor showed in its Feb. 5 report that western Nevada is not in a drought status, but the rest of Nevada ranges from absolute dry to moderately in drought.
"Snowpack in the Carson River Basin is above normal at 111 percent of median, compared to 45 percent last year," said the Natural Resources Conservation Service from its Feb. 1 report. "Precipitation in January was much above average, which brings the seasonal accumulation (October-January) to 87 percent of average. Soil moisture is at 37 percent saturation, compared to 55 percent last year. Storage in Lahontan Reservoir is 45 percent of capacity, compared to 74 percent last year. Forecast streamflow volumes range from 105 percent to 126 percent of average."