When it comes to restoring water service to Trout Canyon, it’s tanks but no tanks.
No other short-term options are left for the cluster of about two dozen mountain homes that saw its water system damaged by the Carpenter 1 Fire in early July and finished off by a flash flood in late August.
In a conference call late last week, representatives for residents and the various agencies trying to help them decided the old gravity-fed water system is a lost cause and what they need now is some kind of large water tank to serve the community on the western edge of the Spring Mountains, 60 miles west of Las Vegas.
It’s unclear how soon such a tank can be found and installed, but once it is residents should have potable water flowing from their taps for the first time since the fire, said Dan Tarnowski from the Nevada Rural Water Association.
The association is coordinating the effort to restore service to Trout Canyon. It won’t be easy or cheap.
To keep a 20,000-gallon storage tank filled will require visits from water trucks every few days, Tarnowski said. “They’re going to be hauling water with some frequency.”
For the past 50 years or so, the collection of vacation homes and full-time residences got their water through an above-ground metal pipe stretched almost three miles to a mountain spring.
The gravity-fed system delivered enough clean water for many of the homes to grow trees, grass and even fill small ponds and creeks.
Tarnowski said the system was unique, built as it was out of welded lengths of World War II-era metal munitions canisters.
“I’ve never come across anything like this in my 40 years of doing this,” he said.
After the 28,000-acre wildfire seriously damaged the pipe, a repair crew from the Las Vegas Valley Water District fixed it — at a cost of about $35,000 — under a mutual-aid agreement with Tarnowski’s association. The system was just about to be put back into service on a temporary basis when the flood destroyed it for good.
Homeowners have since formed a nonprofit organization to oversee a short-term remedy and a long-term fix for their water woes. Tarnowski said the new Trout Canyon Land and Water Association will be able to apply for grants and low-interest loans through the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Rural Development program or other sources.
Whatever happens, Tarnowski said people in Trout Canyon will have to adjust to having far less water at their disposal, possibly for a long time to come. “I’m pretty sure the koi ponds are a thing of the past, at least for next year.”
Luetta Callaway has kept a vacation home in Trout Canyon since 2004. She planned to head up the mountain this weekend with as much water as she could carry to try to save the fruit trees in her yard.
“My car is just full of 5-gallon Sparkletts bottles. I’ve got a dozen of them,” she said.
Callaway doesn’t expect to see a mass exodus from Trout Canyon. She thinks most of her neighbors will keep their places and try to ride out the current trouble, especially those full-time residents for whom the canyon is their only home.
They might not have much of a choice. To leave now would probably mean taking a big loss on their house or cabin, Callaway said. “In my opinion, if you don’t have water, your property isn’t worth anything. It’s like selling vacant land.”
Contact reporter Henry Brean at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-383-0350.