Crews repair water system
December 18, 2017
The man in charge of running the Marlette Lake water system says because of damage caused by the heavy winter, he and his crew spent most of the summer making repairs just to keep the water flowing.
The Marlette system provides some water to Carson City but is the only source of water in Virginia City.
Jerry Walker told the legislative committee that oversees the Marlette system and Lake Tahoe last year "had an incredible snowfall."
"There was quite a bit of damage sustained by the system," Walker said.
He said crews spent a large amount of time replacing the three catchment boxes they installed the summer before and repairing the other two catchment boxes that remove sediment and other debris from the water.
"They were wiped out," he said. "We worked diligently to keep that water flowing."
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And they succeeded.
He said crews managed to keep the water flowing to both Virginia City and Carson City all summer.
But, Walker said there was so much work to repair winter damage that they were unable to do the projects they had originally scheduled for this past summer.
"The amount of water that came down was just enormous," he said.
Walker said in addition to the catchments, they had repair the water pipe that sucks up water from Marlette Lake. But first, they had to remove downed trees and rebuild roads just to get access to the different parts of the system. The Ash Canyon road to the lake, he said, never did open this past summer.
They also had to do work on the air boxes, valves that remove air from the siphon system. Much like a small science class siphon, air in the lines or, in this case, pipes, prevents the siphon from sucking the water up over a hill then down.
In recent years, the water system has gotten numerous improvements, including a gas powered pump at the lake to start the siphon by moving water to the crest of the hill and a new pipe where the siphon runs beneath Interstate 580 at the crest of Lakeview Hill. The system was created in the 1870s to provide water to the booming mining town of Virginia City. In its current form, water from the lake 7,850 feet is siphoned to the crest of the hill. From there if flows downhill eight miles to Lakeview creating a siphon effect that continues to suck water from the lake up over the hill and down with enough pressure to maintain the flow all the way to Virginia City.
It's all done without electricity and, when first built, was considered an engineering marvel.