RENO — The Truckee Meadows Water Authority doesn’t expect any extra water conservation measures in the Reno-Sparks area this summer thanks to a series of late-winter Sierra Nevada storms that helped take the bite out of the region’s lingering drought.
Bill Hauck, the utility’s water supply coordinator, said the authority won’t have any trouble meeting the water demands of its 93,000 homes and businesses this summer.
Before the February storms, experts expected flows of the Truckee River to substantially diminish sometime in June. That likely would have triggered additional restrictions on such things as watering of lawns and gardens.
Now, Hauck says it appears river flows will remain at healthy levels through Labor Day and beyond the period of highest water demand. Peak demand, usually reached sometime in July or August, is about 130 million gallons per day.
“We really got lucky,” he told the Reno-Gazette Journal.
Seven feet of snow fell on much of the Sierra the second weekend of February. Tahoe City recorded 4.41 inches of rain and melted snow, the most ever for a storm there that did not cause a flood, the National Weather Service said.
Lake Tahoe rose nearly 5.5 inches over the course of the two-day storm — an increase of 53,000 acre-feet, or 17.2 billion gallons of water. A few smaller storms since have continued to help, with Tahoe rising about 9 inches from levels seen at the end of January.
It was welcome relief in a region that suffered through its third consecutive dry winter. Some rural communities in California have been forced to ration water.
The federal government’s annual spring weather outlook issued Thursday predicts that the parched conditions will continue with little relief from California throughout the Southwest.
“Drought is expected to persist or intensify in California, Nevada, most of interior Oregon and Utah, Arizona, New Mexico, southeast Colorado, western Oklahoma, and most of west Texas because of below-average rain or snow this winter and the onset of the dry season in April,” the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s report said.
Despite the dry trend, Hauck said Wednesday that the improved situation in the Truckee River flows from Tahoe means the utility will enforce its normal watering schedule through the summer, allowing three days a week. The original outlook had anticipated the possibility of shortening watering hours.
It doesn’t appear the utility will need to tap extra drought reserves stored in the Truckee River reservoir system between Reno and Lake Tahoe, he said. “Conditions are quite a bit better than they were.”