Carson City water situation looks good — for now
S o far, so good.
That’s the gist of Carson City’s water situation, according to city officials tracking supplies and usage, and it’s based on interviews as July took over from June with a heat wave gripping the region.
Heat has been mitigated occasionally by intermittent cloudiness with scattered thunderstorms, and those conditions followed a brief earlier period of spring showers. With drought in its fourth year, however, nobody is declaring much more than hedged optimism as Independence Day looms and summer hits its stride.
“We’ll be OK in this community,” said Mayor Robert Crowell, “but that doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t be cautious and conservative regarding our resources — including water.”
His assessment was echoed in many ways by Darren Schulz, Public Works Department director, and David Bruketta, city utility manager, as they discussed those late spring rains, the early summer heat and their impacts on supplies for residential or commercial uses, as well as the treated wastewater effluent and supplemental water used to keep prison farms irrigated and golf courses green. Schulz discussed the former, Bruketta the latter.
“I felt really good with the wet that we had,” said Schulz, referring to more than two weeks of late spring showers before the heat and mostly dry conditions lately. He said with triple-digit temperatures at hand for Carson City and the region, he’s growing a bit nervous. He trotted out his oft-repeated view of water supplies going forward, calling himself cautiously optimistic.
“I continue that feeling for this year,” he said.
The public works director said it is too early to tell if residents are heeding his call in spring for voluntary 10 percent water cutbacks on such things as showers, the time they water lawns, washing vehicles and the like. He said it’s too early partly because of the rain a few weeks back and partly because he needs more statistics to warrant an analysis.
He said, however, that departmental vigilance continues to monitor whether people follow water restriction guidelines. Local government asks for odd-even residence watering with none on Mondays and alternating usage on other days.
The program calls for homes with odd street address numbers to water Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays, those with even numbers the other three days each week.
Cooler parts of the day or night are best, so watering is barred from 10 a.m. until 6 p.m. on days it is allowed. Some people water at night, as Schulz noted, and he has shifts of temporary workers called “water watch staff” to monitor residents’ usage and make sure they aren’t fudging on prohibited days or hours, as well as checking and following up on waste water hotline tips.
“A lot of people do use the water hotline,” he said, citing an average of about perhaps five calls weekly from people concerned about overuse or incorrect usage by others. He said that hotline, which is (775) 283-7397, brings some knowledge of potential offenders and yet doesn’t account for all his staff’s monitoring efforts. “In a week,” he said, “we probably talk to and/or cite 10 or 15.”
He said for the most part, people comply when contacted to curb excess or improper water usage.
“I know for a fact that we haven’t fined anybody,” he said, “so we haven’t had a three-peat offender yet.”
So far, so good on with all that, and Bruketta’s arena doesn’t look a great deal different at this stage.
“It’s going well,” said Bruketta, delving into the situation regarding effluent distribution and usage at state prison farms or golf courses. He also talked of the dry early months of this year, the short rainy respite and the current heat wave as he emphasized the next three months should tell the tale.
“In May,” he said, “we had significantly cooler temperature and some moisture.” May data showed the city in relatively good shape regarding reclaimed water usage, partly due to the coolness and the precipitation that helped keep things in hand. Trough the end of June, as far as he can determine short of full statistical analysis, he’s hopeful. He tracks matters monthly, but June data won’t become fully clear for a week or so.
“Looking at their cumulative use through June,” he said of those who take the effluent off the city’s hands, “they’re very close to last year.”
He said the problem was those first three months when it was so dry, which kept him nervous as Carson City entered spring.
“That’s when we raised the red flag,” Bruketta said, his way of warning the users to keep a handle on irrigation as much as possible. The prison farms, public and private golf course complexes handle the effluent for city government because federal dictates require that treated wastewater not go in the Carson River. In recent years, however, the effluent needed for allocated watering has come up short and a city supplement came into play.
As of early June, Bruketta reported, cumulative reclaimed water usage this year was trailing the same time in 2014. On June 3, he wrote the users that cumulative usage through May showed a decrease of 8 percent when compared with last year at the same time. Last year, he said, 886 acre-feet had been used; this year through May, it was 815 acre-feet. An acre-foot of water amounts to approximately 325,850 gallons.