Water outlook remains in good shape
March 13, 2019
Both the Lahontan Reservoir and river flows feeding the canal system are in good shape this month following a series of storms during the past two months.
The monthly Natural Resources Conservation Service's March Water Supply Outlook report also states Nevada's water supply "is in great shape" including the four Sierra basins that provide water to western Nevada.
The Truckee Carson Irrigation District is looking at another good season similar to the record year in 2017 but without the excessive release of water into the desert.
"We will continue at about 170 percent of normal snow pack here in the Carson River watershed," said Rusty Jardine, TCID's district manager/general counsel. "That means our probability for precautionary releases from Lahontan Dam during the water season is about 60 percent."
Jardine said TCID will be introducing water into the valley's canal systems as early as this week after the ditches have been cleaned of debris.
A new bridge crossing the river below Diversion Dam was recently completed by TCID and Churchill County. Jardine said the bridge, with a series of culverts underneath the roadway, should help with the river's downstream flow. Two years ago, the county closed the road for months because of flooding.
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Jardine also said crews are completing work to ensure the emergency weir and spillway are ready in case water has to be diverted from the V-line canal to the desert. He said TCID and Naval Air Station Fallon have been working together and following the water reports in case water must be released. The Navy's Bravo-16 training range could be affected, but unless something catastrophic occurs such as a faster-than-normal runoff and more storms, Jardine doesn't expect problems.
While the smaller reservoirs around the valley are nearing capacity, Jardine said Sheckler Reservoir below the weir can handle additional water. Furthermore, Jardine said the recent rain and snow has reduced the need for farmers to tap into other water sources and rely on Mother Nature.
The level at Lahontan Reservoir has risen to 192,458 acre-feet as of March 10 after a series of storms in February and the first week of March. Since Feb. 1, the reservoir has added almost 52,000 acre-feet. This is down from 238,527 acre-feet recorded on the same day in 2017. One acre-foot equals about 326,000 gallons.
The Carson River at Fort Churchill is running at 676 cubic feet per second compared to 867 cfs on March 10, 2017. The Truckee River's flow at Derby Dam, which feeds into the Truckee Canal is 1,890 cfs, just short of the 1,960 cfs two years ago. The Truckee Canal feeds water to farmers in the Fernley region.
A cfs is a rate of water flow that supplies 1 cubic foot of water in one second or 7.48 gallons.
The NCRS report stated January and February 2017 produced heavy rainfall and then there was the March Miracle of snowfall in 2018. The report stated February 2019 turned into another record setter.
"February 2019 produced staggering snowfall totals, incredibly light powder, lots of shoveling, and plans to keep ski lifts running past Independence Day. NRCS snow surveyors sampled snow 13.5 feet deep at Mt. Rose Ski Area SNOTEL," said NRCS Nevada State Hydrologist Jeff Anderson. "NRCS data shows that a number of SNOTEL and snow courses across the region set new records for the biggest increase in snow water for the month of February,"
Snow packs across the state have already exceeded median peak amounts and Nevada's water supply is in great shape, stated the report, which is based on data through March 1. Across Northern Nevada, streamflow forecasts are far above average and forecasted volumes are well beyond the amount needed to fill reservoirs. The report stated streams should have prolonged high flows and snow to linger on the mountains into summer with elevated streamflow through late summer and fall, keeping reservoir carryover storage high for the following season as well.
The March 1 basin snow packs are 164-172 percent of median in the Sierra basins (Lake Tahoe, Truckee, Carson and Walker) and 128-145 percent of median across the rest of Northern Nevada.
The report stated even if there's no more snow, all of Northern Nevada has already achieved an above normal winter.
Precipitation was nearly three times the monthly average in the Lake Tahoe, Truckee, Carson and Walker basins, bringing water year totals to 133-146 percent of average. Streamflow forecasts are now greater than 160 percent of average in the Lake Tahoe, Truckee, Carson and Walker Basins.