Liquid gold flows
The valley’s liquid gold for ranchers and farmers is now running in many irrigation canals, while both the Carson and Truckee rivers’ flow rates are stronger than normal.
Rusty Jardine, district manager for the Truckee Carson Irrigation District, said water orders have been coming in steady since TCID began accepting requests on March 14. TCID charged the canals with water on Monday.
The Board of Directors voted at their March meeting to allocate 70 percent of normal demand for water for the 2016 growing season. Although the board allocated 70 percent, Jardine said that number could increase with the next snowpack measurements at Mt. Rose and at Lake Tahoe. He said the 70 percent allocation was based on snowpack and runoff totals conducted prior to the March 1 TCID meeting.
“We will have additional supply and may drive the allocation number up,” Jardine said.
The reduced totals, though, haven’t stopped the orders.
“They (water orders) are still coming in intermittently,” Jardine said. “Yesterday, we had about 11 orders.”
Jardine said he has also received calls from water users who are waiting for soil temperatures to warm up for planting before they request water.
One grower who is taking advantage of the water is Colby Frey, whose family runs the Churchill Vineyards and an estate distillery south of Fallon. He said 1,200 acres of rye are ready for irrigating.
“I got water yesterday, and that’s perfect timing,” Frey said. “It’s really important for the crops because they have been dry and not irrigated since July.”
Frey said once water begins to soak the winter grain, he said the crop will “pop right up.”
The timing for charging the canals with water came at the right time. Both TCID and the U.S. Geological Survey took about a week to repair a water-measurement gauge at Wadsworth, a device that is critical for measuring the Truckee Canal’s flow.
Work began earlier this month to replace the gauge and was completed to allow full allowable diversion at Derby Dam by mid-month, Jardine said.
“The gauge was fixed and accomplished in a very short time,” Jardine said. “It took about six days to shut off the water in the canal, repair the gauge and then gradually increase flow.”
Currently, the Truckee Canal is flowing at 307 cubic feet per second (cfs) at Wadsworth, and at Derby Dam, the Truckee River is flowing at 812 cfs.
Meanwhile, the Carson River at Fort Churchill is flowing at 651 cfs.
Jardine said the Wadsworth gauge is a critical measuring device on the canal and indicates if TCID is in compliance with the court order (for cfs). Additionally, Jardine said TCID is not seeing much loss of water between the Wadsworth and Hazen gauges.
“There’s only a 17 cfs difference in losing water in the Truckee Canal.” he said. “A lot of water is going to the aquifers on its way from the Truckee River to Lahontan.”
Jardine said the amount of water flowing from Lake Tahoe into the Truckee River, an outlet at the north end at Tahoe City, could increase as the spring runoff intensifies. With water lapping at the rim, Jardine said more water will flow over the Truckee Dam into the river, and ultimately, TCID will be able to divert additional water into the canal at Derby Dam and then to Lahontan Reservoir.
“We’ll see a good year on the Truckee River system,” Jardine said.